Repel The Recession With These 5 Tips

It doesn’t hurt your bottom line to take a step back and self-evaluate. Learn how you’ll be able to repel the recession with these 5 tips. 

While the professional pundits debate when or if an economic recession is imminent, it may be a good idea to ensure you’re prepared, nonetheless. It doesn’t hurt your bottom line to take a step back and self-evaluate. Learn how you’ll be able to repel the recession with these 5 tips.

Live Your Life Within Your Means

Many of you may already live your everyday lives with this money-management strategy and if you do, then you’re ahead of the curve. But let’s be honest, we all know people who do not live within their means. Saying ‘no’ when deciding on an unneeded purchase is a skill that sometimes needs to be learned.

It’s important to carefully weigh all decisions about money, especially if a recession is looming. Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking the recession may not last long. The more conscious you are about spending habits, the more you can avoid going into debt with credit cards and loans. It’s better to save now and put off making big purchases, then to build up your debt and struggle to get out from under it later in life. Speaking of saving…

Look For Ways to Save

It’s always a good idea to audit your own finances. Most people are aware of their paycheck, but they are often fuzzy about the money that leaves their account. Re-evaluate your monthly subscriptions. Do you need every single streaming service? How often do you make coffee runs to your local café? It might be time to brew a cup from home.

Divide your monthly expenses into wants and needs. Make sure you’re not overpaying for those wants. Cut down on the trips to the restaurants. If you had any planned vacations or renovations, it might be in your best interest to postpone. Perhaps we learned all those money-saving tricks during the 2020 quarantine for a reason. It might be time to revisit those lessons.

Have an Emergency Fund

You may call it a rainy-day fund. If so, the skies are getting cloudy. If you haven’t already put money aside in a secured FDIC account for emergencies, it may be time to start. In the event of a lost job or your forced to take a pay cut, you want the flexibility to cover expenses while you engage in a plan of action. This fund is designed for necessary expenses. Be diligent with how you use the money. Again, you don’t know how long a potential recession could last.

Obtain Additional Income

A smart tactic — and one that’s been popularized in recent years — is finding other streams of revenue outside of your job. We live in a gig economy and the skills you’ve honed at your current employer may prove valuable in a consulting capacity. You could replace any lost income from a job loss or salary reduction by uncovering potential freelancing opportunities in your specialty. It doesn’t hurt to add more skills to your resume. The more you know how to do, the more attractive you become to your current or future employer.

Anticipate the Worst

No one expects to lose their job, but don’t be unprepared if it happens. It would be appropriate for you to consider your options in the event of the unthinkable. Update your resume. Update your LinkedIn profile. All those professional relationships you developed, both online and in-person, could become leads to new positions. Prepare for the worst, expect the best.

(Courtesy: https://barnumfinancialgroup.com/repel-the-recession-with-these-5-tips/)

Billionaires Grow, India Shrinks: Triumph Of Crony Capitalism

By, Jaswant Kaur At The Indian Currents

Around two months ago, India’s fastest growing businessman remarked that if India became a USD 30-trillion-economy by 2050, no one would go to bed on an empty stomach. 

While speaking at a conclave, Gautam Adani said, “We are around 10,000 days away from the year 2050. Over this period, I anticipate we’ll add about USD 25 trillion to our economy. This translates to an addition of USD 2.5 billion to the GDP every day. I also anticipate that over this period, we’ll have eradicated all forms of poverty.” 

He anticipated that the stock markets would add about USD 40 trillion in market capitalisation, which translated to an addition of USD 4 billion every day until 2050. “Uplifting the lives of 1.4 billion may feel like a marathon in the short run, but it’s a sprint in the long run,” concluded Adani. 

Well, those who attended the conclave would have actually felt that the person, who is now a frontrunner for the richest person in the world, also thinks of the poor. We can only wish that India’s growth story could also lead to the growth of each and every fellow citizen. However, it all seems to be a figment of the imagination! 

Incidentally, the industrialist, who runs a slew of businesses from airports to ports to power generation to distribution to cement manufacturing to infrastructure development, has added USD 49 billion to his wealth in 2021! The figure is much higher than the world’s two richest persons – Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos – at that time. Jeff Bezos has moved to the third position recently. 

In fact, during 2020 when the entire world came to a standstill due to the pandemic, Adani’s wealth grew at a much higher speed than the coronavirus! Immediately before the onset of the pandemic, he bought a lavish bungalow at one of the posh localities of the national capital. Unlike Ambani’s Antilia, not much has been written about his bungalow. However, the land size is much bigger than that of Ambani, if reports are to be believed. 

In the month of February, Adani overtook Ambani to become Asia’s richest person. His net worth stood at USD 88.5 billion at that time. In a matter of five months, it stands at USD 115.5 billion! Be that as it may, his growth rate is certainly exponential!

Of late, Forbes has placed him at the fourth place in the list of world’s richest people. Incidentally, he just crossed Bill Gates, who has been donating his wealth to charity and who wishes to be kicked off this list. 

Let us see how India’s economy fared during the last two years. The continuous lockdown in the year 2020 followed by the second wave in a few months from the unlock phase, had jolted the Indian economy. Despite this, we are termed as the fastest growing country. However, there is a caveat to this statement.

The combined fiscal deficit of the Centre and the states is more than 10 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. It only means that the government had to print more money to keep the machinery called the Indian economy going. It is an established fact that growth at the cost of fiscal consolidation is not a good practice.

We saw a similar trend in the pre-liberalisation period. In fact, India has registered a growth rate of 5.3 percent in the 1980s. However, high fiscal deficit had brought the country on the verge of bankruptcy. High fiscal deficit increases the current account deficit leading to inflation and exhaustion of foreign reserves.

During 2020-21, the Centre had a fiscal deficit of 9.6 percent, understandably to combat the emergency posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The economic slowdown had impacted the revenue. The government had no option but to print more money. The deficit was reduced to 6.9 percent in 2021-22. The finance minister has projected it to be at 6.4 percent, which is at a higher end.

Of late, a lot is being talked about global recession in view of the Russia-Ukraine war. Experts in our country have been maintaining a stand that the Indian economy is strong enough to bear this jolt. At least the economic facts do not validate such statements.

One, foreign investors have been exiting the Indian market. Resultantly, the current value of the Rupee has gone down considerably. The exchange value of the dollar has touched Rs. 80. Generally, recession is tackled by printing more money, which means higher fiscal deficit. In the current scenario, where fiscal deficit is already high, it will be suicidal to increase it to the levels of the covid year.

A government which believes in populism will find it tempting to print more money for political reasons, a move which may not gel well with the foreign investors. The rupee may further plunge, giving way to inflation, making people at the bottom of the pyramid more vulnerable.

While people like Adani may continue to make wealth, the poor will become poorer day by day. The last few years beginning with demonetisation, imposition of GST, the sudden economic closure due to the pandemic, have affected the poor badly. The ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine has triggered retail inflation. Items of daily use have become expensive. Fuel prices have touched new heights.

On the top of it, the government’s decision to levy taxes on essential items will only make their life miserable. If one looks at the latest unemployment data released by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), it has shot up to 7.8 percent in June, with a loss of 13 million jobs, mainly in the agriculture sector. Not only this, 2.5 million people lost jobs amongst the salaried employees.

The government reduced the demand for armed personnel of late by announcing a new scheme. The job opportunities in the private equity-funded market have also started reducing. The situation is all-the-more worrying. High inflation coupled with reducing income levels, will only add more people to below the poverty line, increasing the pressure on government-funded schemes like the national food security act (NFSA), NREGA etc.

This only means more fiscal deficit, malnutrition, impacting the lives of children, women and the elderly. The youth who is left with no avenues to earn a livelihood, is more likely to contribute to social evils like drug addiction, crime etc. Uneducated, unskilled, unemployable youth will only add on to the economic burden. Unlike Japan, India will not be able to leverage this period when the young population is higher than ageing ones.

A report from the international food policy research (IFPRI) published a few days ago should set the alarm bells ringing. The institute has estimated that India’s food production is likely to reduce by 16 percent due to climate change. We have already witnessed the plunge in wheat production this year forcing us to stop exports. The quantity of wheat being distributed through the public distribution systems under schemes like NFSA have also been reduced. At many places, wheat has been completely replaced by rice and other cereals.

In view of the current circumstances, the IFPRI has also estimated that the number of people at risk for hunger is expected to increase by 23 percent. In fact, 73.9 million people are expected to be at risk in 2030. The report says that if the effect of climate change is factored in, the number is likely to increase to 90.6 million people in India coupled with reduction in food production. Globally, the production may increase considerably by 2050 but unfortunately people affected by hunger are expected to increase by 500 million people!

One can easily imagine how defective government policies, where the rich are favoured at the cost of the poor, will make the poor poorer year on year. It is because of this reason that India’s growth story has not been able to transform the lives of the marginalised and the underserved.

When it comes to the poor, the government looks at them from the lens of potential voters not as growth catalysts. The likes of Nirav Modi, Vijaya Mallya etc. enjoy the clout to exploit the system to their favour while the common man struggles to get a loan approved for setting up his enterprise.

As far as Adani’s statement is concerned, it certainly speaks about a world that seems to be Utopian. We can only imagine a world where no one sleeps with an empty stomach. It can only happen if the government does a serious introspection, introduces taxes to regulate the unquestioned growth of a few and invests the money for the benefit of the poor, something on the lines of Thomas Pikkety’s world as presented in his book “Capitalism in 21st Century”.

As of now “Sabka saath, Sabka vikas, Sabka vishwas” is a mere slogan, aimed at winning votes of the people not their hearts. We are set to see the rise of Adanis and Ambanis but not of the poor, who will remain trapped in the inter-generational cycle of poverty.

Oil Prices Likely To Tumble By Year End, Even If Economies Avoid A Recession

Goldman Sachs reckons crude oil prices are going to $140 in the coming months. JPMorgan said they could even surge to $380 in a worst-case scenario. UBS reckons they’ll hit $130 in September.

But Citi is bucking the trend. The investment bank’s strategists predict oil will fall sharply by the end of the year, from prices of around $100 a barrel on Friday.

Francesco Martoccia, the bank’s head of European commodities strategy, warned in note to clients Tuesday that oil prices could even slump to $65 a barrel by December, if a nasty recession hits.

The same day, oil prices tumbled, with US benchmark WTI crude dropping below $100, as investors worried that central banks’ interest-rate hikes would trigger sharp slowdowns in economic growth. “The timing was exquisite,” Martoccia told Insider this week.

Yet Martoccia and his colleagues expect oil to drop even if there’s no drastic slowdown. Their so-called base case is that the price of global benchmark Brent crude tumbles to $85 a barrel by the end of the year — that’s around 18% lower than Friday’s price of $104.

At the heart of Citi’s contrarian view is its expectation that Russia will keep exporting and producing crude, even as the US and its allies batter the country with sanctions.

Many analysts expect Russian energy exports to fall sharply by the end of the year as the European Union gradually bans purchases from the country. The G7 is also exploring how to cap Russian oil prices — which could cause exports to drop further.

The logic is simple. Unable to sell its oil, Russia will shut down production. Buyers will then be competing for the remaining global supplies, driving up oil prices.

But Citi takes a different view. Its strategists believe India and China will ramp up purchases, keeping Russian oil pumping and alleviating the pressure on the market. “We actually don’t see a supply crunch in the making,” Martoccia said.

Crude oil exports to European countries in the OECD will drop from 2.5 million barrels a day in the first quarter of the year to 970,000 in the fourth, Citi predicts.

Yet it thinks China will step up its imports from 1.4 million to 2.3 million barrels a day, and India from 110,000 to 950,000 a day. Other developing economies will lift their purchases slightly, meaning Russia will be exporting more crude by the end of the year than at the start.

“I’m skeptical that the governments wouldn’t listen to their own energy needs, because we have seen already protests and riots around the world because of the increase in food prices and energy prices,” Martoccia said.

The other key ingredient in oil prices is demand. Citi thinks the world’s appetite for oil is going to slow over the coming months as the global economy cools.

Martoccia said Europe in particular is likely to cut back on its energy consumption. Many economists expect the eurozone to fall into a recession as a result of soaring inflation driven by rocketing natural gas prices. Germany has already started to dim its streetlights to save energy.

“When you look at the gas demand, for instance, from the industrial complex in Italy, or even the orders of one of the biggest industrial facilities, it’s going down,” he said. “And eventually you have to see spillover effects elsewhere.”

Oil-price prediction is a difficult game. Many analysts say the opposite to Citi, arguing Russian production will fall, and a Chinese economic recovery and the return of global tourism will boost demand.

Citi is hedging its bets. It thinks there’s a 30% chance oil jumps back up to around $120 by the end of the year. “This year, it’s very difficult to have a high conviction,” Martoccia said.

Canada To Provide Work Permits For Some International Graduates

Canada is offering work permit extension to international students who no longer have it or are set to have it expired between September 20, 2021 and December 31, 2022. According to Sean Fraser, Canada’s minister of immigration, these students will be granted an additional 18-month open work permit under the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP).

Sean Fraser, Canada’s minister of immigration, said the students would be granted an additional 18-month open work permit under the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP).

More graduates will be able to settle in Canada due to this special provision, which he said indicates economic growth potential. An extension of post-graduate employment permits for some international graduates has been announced by Canada.

Students from abroad whose visas have expired or will expire between September 20, 2021, and December 31, 2022 are eligible for the new extension. The second open work permit for these students will be valid for 18 months.

As Canada’s economy continues to recover, “there remain hundreds of thousands of jobs waiting to be filled,” Canada’s immigration minister Sean Fraser tweeted. “Hard-working international graduates make enormous contributions to their communities and our economy.”

“We’re now extending post-graduate work permits to international graduates whose permits expired or will expire between September 20th, 2021 and December 31, 2022.”

Fewer Homes, High Prices, Rising Interest Rates Impede Home Buyers Across USA

Shortly after moving to South Florida for a new job with the U.S. military, Shannon Kaufman and his wife, Wendy, signed up for a whole other mission: buying a home.

For months, they scoured listings, strategizing late into the night on which homes to target and working out how much they could afford, even if it meant using some of their retirement savings.

After visiting 200 listings and making offers on 15 homes that ultimately didn’t pan out, the Kaufmans finally found a home that fits at least some of their needs. They’ll be renting it, however.

“We found a place that’s smaller than we want, but it’ll work until we have something built or until the market cools off,” said Shannon Kaufman, 47.

America’s housing market has grown increasingly frenzied, and prices are out of reach for many buyers, especially first-timers. This spring, traditionally the busiest season for home sales, is more likely to deliver frustration and disappointment for aspiring homebuyers than it is homeownership.

The number of homes for sale nationally remains near record lows, fueling fierce competition among buyers vying for fewer homes. From Los Angeles to Raleigh, North Carolina, when a house does hit the market, it typically sells within days.

Bidding wars are common, often driving the sale price well above what the owner was asking. And would-be buyers planning to finance their purchase with a home loan are often losing out to investors and others able to buy a home with cash.

A quarter of all homes sold in February were purchased with cash, up from 22% a year ago, according to the National Association of Realtors. Real estate investors accounted for 19% of transactions in February, up from 17% a year ago.

Nichol Khan, a project manager, and her husband Ed moved to Mesa, Arizona, from Phoenix two years ago to shorten their commute to work. Home prices in the Phoenix area have jumped 20% from a year ago to $500,000, according to Realtor.com. “The prices just keep going up and up,” Khan said.

The couple has lost out on more than a dozen homes they bid on. Some of the homes ended up selling for less in cash than the couple had offered. “We don’t have $500,000 in cash,” said Khan, 42. “We just could not be competitive with that.”

Fewer homes on the market and high prices have been the hallmark of the housing market for the past 10 years or so. Now, rising mortgage rates further complicate the homebuying equation. Higher rates could limit the pool of buyers and cool the rate of home price growth — good news for buyers. But higher rates also weaken their buying power.

Interest rates for loan has climbed to around 4.7%. A year ago, average rates hovered just above 3%, according to mortgage buyer Freddie Mac. The increase follows a sharp move up in 10-year Treasury yields, reflecting expectations of higher interest rates overall as the Federal Reserve moves to hike short-term rates in order to combat surging inflation.

Would-be buyers who applied for a home loan in February faced a median monthly mortgage payment of $1,653, including principal and interest, an increase of 8.3% from a year ago, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

“It’s hard to believe, but I do think it’s going to be tougher this year, in some respects, than it was in previous years,” said Danielle Hale, Realtor.com’s chief economist. “So far, at least, we have seen the number of homes for sale continue to decline and prices continue to rise. Those two factors combined suggest that the competitive market is going to keep buyers on their toes.”

Buyers should set their sights on homes that are listed well within what they can afford, experts say.

“You should be looking 15%-20% below their limit; that gives them room for appraisal gaps, it gives them room for negotiating,” said Tracy Hutton, a broker with Century 21 in Indianapolis.

Being well prepared sometimes isn’t enough when a homeowner prefers to accept an all-cash offer, rather than sell to a buyer with financing.

Wendy Kaufman in South Florida couldn’t even get into an open house for a property on the market after she revealed the couple had a mortgage backed by the Veterans Administration.

“When they saw I had a VA preapproval they said, ‘Sorry we don’t want to work with you.’” she said.

Sometimes, buyers don’t have a chance to make an offer before a home is snapped up, sight unseen. In the Miami area, so-called “blind offers” have become common as a way to get around other buyers, said Rafael Corrales, a Redfin agent.

One reason is the ultra-low level of homes for sale, which for the greater Miami metropolitan area, was down 55% in February from a year ago, according to Realtor.com.

While every market is unique, there is one common hurdle across the U.S.: affordability. The median U.S. home price jumped 15% in February from a year earlier to $357,300, according to the National Association of Realtors.

The San Jose, California, metro area had 40% fewer homes for sale in February than a year ago, according to Realtor.com. Buyers there have to navigate some of the most expensive home prices in the nation. The median home listing price climbed 13.3% to about $1.36 million in February from a year earlier.

The market trends are a bit more welcoming for buyers in the Midwest, including the Indianapolis metropolitan area, where the number of homes for sale was down about 23% from a year ago. The median home price there stood at $287,000 in February, up 8.5% from a year earlier.

In Raleigh, home listings were down a whopping 55% in February from a year earlier. Competition for fewer homes helped push the median home price to $430,000, a 9% increase from February 2021.

Those trends made for a more competitive market for first-time buyers like Lisa Piercey and her husband, Alex Berardo. First-time buyers made up 29% of all homes sold nationally last month. That share has averaged 31% annually over the past 10 years.

The couple began looking in December for homes at $350,000 or below. They offered $5,000 over the asking price on two properties but lost out to rival bidders.

“That was all we could afford,” said Lisa Piercey, a 32-year old project manager. “It’s really defeating, really disappointing.”

In the end, the couple bought a townhome in a new construction community, though they see it as a stepping stone to a more spacious house with a big yard.

“Its big enough that we can still start our family and then move when the market hopefully dies down in a couple of years,” she said.

Money, EconomyIndia’s Rupee Continues To Fall Due To Inflationary Pressures

Inflationary concerns over elevated commodity prices are expected to maintain pressure on the Indian rupee during the upcoming week.

Accordingly, high crude oil as well as other raw material prices are expected to unleash a domestic inflationary wave.This trend, said senior analysts, will dent growth prospects along with leading to an eventual rise in interest rates.However, fiscal end dollar selling by software majors will arrest any sharp downfall in rupee value against the USD. Consequently, the Spot USDINR is expected to settle in the range of 76 to 76.50 for the next week.

“Crude and rising US yields kept the rupee weak amid Ukraine war concerns,” said Sajal Gupta Head Fx & Rates Edelweiss. “Rising inflation is a concern across the globe and does not see a immediate solutiona which shall keep the currency weaker.”

Last week, the rupee depreciated by half a per cent amidst a strong US dollar, higher crude oil and weaker risk sentiments. The rupee closed at 76.20 to a greenback after swinging between 75.80 and 76.50 to a USD. “Biggest driver remains crude oil prices and sentiment towards equity markets,” said Devarsh Vakil, Deputy Head of Retail Research, HDFC Securities.

“We expect RBI to keep utilising its large forex reserves to keep the INR stable at around current levels. The bias for USDINR remains skewed to the upside following continued geopolitical worries and broad-based selling by foreign institutions.” The RBI is known to enter the markets via intermediaries to either sell or buy US dollars to keep the rupee in a stable orbit.

Gaurang Somaiya, Forex & Bullion Analyst, Motilal Oswal Financial Services, said: “Next week, on the domestic front, market participants will continue to monitor how crude prices will be moving and at the same time, FIIs participation will be important to watch. “Fiscal deficit and trade balance number will also be released next week and will be influencing the rupee.”

A New Monetary World Order As Russia Reels Under Sanctions

As US President Joe Biden unveiled new sanctions on Friday against Russia, he made it clear that the totality of the sanctions and export controls is “crushing the Russian economy”.

“The ruble has lost more than half its value. They tell me it takes about 200 rubles to equal 1 dollar these days. The Moscow stock exchange has been closed fully for two weeks because they know the moment it opens, it will probably collapse,” Biden said.

Credit rating agencies have downgraded Russia to ‘junk’ status.

The list of businesses and international corporations leaving Russia is growing by the day, Biden said while listing the stark consequences for Russia and its economy that have unfolded since the Ukraine war.

“We will not fight a war against Russia in Ukraine. Direct confrontation between NATO and Russia is World War III, something we must strive to prevent,” Biden said on not sending troops to Ukraine.

“And we’re going to continue to squeeze (Vladimir) Putin. The G7 will seek to deny Russia the ability to borrow from leading multinational institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Putin is an aggressor… And Putin must pay the price,” Biden said.

Zoltan Pozsar of Credit Suisse said in a report, “We are witnessing the birth of Bretton Woods III – a new world (monetary) order centred around commodity-based currencies in the East that will likely weaken the Eurodollar system and also contribute to inflationary forces in the West.”

“A crisis is unfolding. A crisis of commodities. Commodities are collateral, and collateral is money, and this crisis is about the rising allure of outside money over inside money. Bretton Woods II was built on inside money, and its foundations crumbled a week ago when the G7 seized Russia’s FX reserves,” Credit Suisse said.

Pozsar said it is a perfect storm but that’s precisely what happens when the West sanctions the single-largest commodity producer of the world, which sells virtually everything.

“What we are seeing at the 50-year anniversary of the 1973 OPEC supply shock is something similar but substantially worse — the 2022 Russia supply shock, which isn’t driven by the supplier but the consumer.

“The aggressor in the geopolitical arena is being punished by sanctions, and sanctions-driven commodity price moves threaten financial stability in the West. The commodities market is much more financialised and leveraged today than it was during the 1973 OPEC supply crisis, and today’s Russian supply crisis is much bigger, much more broad-based, and much more correlated. It’s scarier,” Pozsar said.

There are Russian commodities that are collapsing in price and there are non-Russian commodities that are rallying — this rally is due to the 2022 Russia supply shock.

“It’s a buyers’ strike. Not a seller’s strike, to make things all the more absurd… Russian commodities today are like subprime CDOs were in 2008. Conversely, non-Russian commodities are like what US Treasury securities were back in 2008. One collapsing in price, and the other surging in price, with margin calls on both regardless of which side you are on,” he added.

The ban on technology exports to Russia, in response to the war in Ukraine, could backfire on global manufacturers of computer processors and semiconductors, as many crucial components for their production are made exclusively in Russia, an industry expert warned.

“The ban on finished products for Russia will result in a retaliatory ban on the supply of production components and will cause an acute shortage of microprocessors for the whole world. By comparison, the end-of-2021 supply disruption situation will appear relatively light,” Oleg Izumrudov, head of the Consortium of Russian Developers of Data Storage Systems (RosSHD), said, RT reported.

Following the sanctions, Russia may default on sovereign bonds for the first time since the Bolshevik revolution in 1917.

A leading ratings agency has warned that Russia is soon likely to default on its debts, as it downgraded the country’s bonds further into ‘junk’ territory, BBC reported.

Fitch Ratings slashed its assessment of Russia to almost the bottom of its scale, just days after downgrading it from investment status.

If Russia does fail to make payments on its debt, it raises the possibility of the first major default on the country’s sovereign bonds since the wake of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, BBC reported.

It is the latest blow to the country’s creditworthiness in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine. This week, Moscow said its bond payments may be affected by sanctions.

“The further ratcheting up of sanctions, and proposals that could limit trade in energy, increase the probability of a policy response by Russia that includes at least selective non-payment of its sovereign debt obligations,” Fitch said, BBC reported.

Removing Russian oil from the market would make energy prices skyrocket to over $300 per barrel of oil, Russia’s Deputy PM Aleksandr Novak said, adding that Russia is not dependent on the West and can “reroute” its supplies elsewhere.

The European officials are “once again seeking to put all the blame for their own recent energy policy shortfalls on Russia”, Novak told journalists, adding that “Russia has nothing to do with the current price hike on market volatility”, RT reported.

There are grave implications for food prices also. Energy and commodity prices-including wheat and other grains-have surged due to the war in Ukraine, adding to inflationary pressures from supply chain disruptions and the rebound from the Covid-19 pandemic, the IMF said.

Price shocks will have an impact worldwide, especially on poor households for whom food and fuel are a higher proportion of expenses.

Should the conflict escalate, the economic damage would be all the more devastating. The sanctions on Russia will also have a substantial impact on the global economy and financial markets, with significant spillovers to other countries, the IMF said.

In many countries, the crisis is creating an adverse shock for both inflation and activity, amid already elevated price pressures.

Added to that is the tensions around nuclear plants. Ukrainian intelligence has information that the Russian aggressors are preparing a terrorist attack on the “exclusion zone” in Chornobyl and plan to blame Ukraine.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence officials said, “According to information available, Vladimir Putin has ordered the preparation of a terrorist attack on the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.”

The Russia-controlled Chornobyl nuclear power plant plans to create a man-made catastrophe, for which the occupiers will try to shift responsibility on Ukraine, Ukrayinska Pravda reported.

To make matters worse, Russia has accused US of backing biological laboratories on the territory of Ukraine, experiments were carried out with samples of coronavirus from bats, said the official representative of the Russian Ministry of Defense, Major General Igor Konashenkov.

“In the biolaboratories created and funded in Ukraine, as the documents show, experiments were carried out with samples of bat coronavirus,” he said, RT reported.

Konashenkov said the department would soon publish another package of documents on secret military biological activities of the United States on the territory of Ukraine and present the results of their examination.

Social Security: Offices will reopen after 2 years this month

Social Security Administration offices have remained closed since March of 2020, and now, two years later, they will finally be reopening this month.

The agency is currently facing major backlog issues, similar to the IRS, due to the pandemic and staffing issues. Many are hoping that reopening the physical offices will resolve many of these issues. Despite the offices closing, the SSA did not stop functioning.

Is it possible I won’t get Social Security benefits?

In person appointments have been available for people in critical situations in need of assistance. If someone found themselves with no food or shelter, they could make an appointment to get help immediately.

Social Security’s backlogs and reopening of offices

Most of the work done by the Social Security Administration for the last two years has been by phone, email, or mail.

Bump in benefits may get them taxed

This means administrative issues have come about. Only 51% of calls were answered in 2021, according to Forbes and The Sun. After an investigation was completed by the Office of the Inspector General, it was found policies were not in place.

Social Security: Only claim if you know these answers

This was because there were not strong policies surround the tracking and returning original documents, which they themselves require. Documents being mishandled included passports, driver’s licenses, and birth certificates. The hope is that Congress gives funding to not only reopen the offices, but provide better service to the public.

India To Launch Its Own Digital Currency In 2022-2023

India’s central bank will launch a digital version of the rupee in the next financial year, the country’s finance minister said on Tuesday.

“Introduction of a central bank digital currency will give a boost, a big boost to the digital economy,” Nirmala Sitharaman said as she delivered the country’s annual budget. “Digital currency will also lead to a more efficient and cheaper currency management system.”

The Reserve Bank of India will introduce the digital rupee in the 2022-2023 financial year which begins on Apr. 1.

Sitharaman gave no details about how the digital rupee would work or what it would look like, but said it would be introduced “using blockchain and other technologies.”

Blockchain refers to the technology that was originally created alongside bitcoin, but the definition has since evolved as its applications have moved beyond cryptocurrencies.

India would be one of the world’s largest economies to introduce a so-called central bank digital currency (CBDC) if it sticks to its plans.

China has been working on a digital version of its yuan since 2014 and is furthest ahead when it comes to launching CBDCs globally.

Over the past two years, the People’s Bank of China has been carrying out trials in the form of lotteries, where digital yuan is handed out to citizens in certain cities for them to spend. More recently, the central bank has looked to expand the use of the digital yuan. China has not launched its digital currency nationwide yet and has no timeline to do so, however.

Elsewhere, Japan is looking into its own CBDC, and the U.S. Federal Reserve last month released a study into a digital dollar, but did not take a firm position on whether it would issue one.

While India is pushing forward with a digital rupee, it has tried to take a tougher stance on cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and is currently working on regulation for the sector.

On Tuesday, Sitharaman said income from the transfer of virtual digital assets should be taxed at rate of 30%.

India Slips To 101st Spot In Global Hunger Index 2021

India slipped to 101st position in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2021 of 116 countries and is behind neighbors Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. In 2020, India was ranked 94th out of 107 countries.

The report, prepared jointly by Irish aid agency Concern Worldwide and German organization Welt Hunger Hilfe, termed the level of hunger in India “alarming”. India’s GHI score has also decelerated — from 38.8 in 2000 to the range of 28.8 – 27.5 between 2012 and 2021.

The GHI score is calculated on four indicators — undernourishment; child wasting (the share of children under the age of five who low weight for their height); child stunting (children under the age of five who have low height for their age) and child mortality (the mortality rate of children under the age of five).

The share of wasting among children in India rose from 17.1% between 1998-2002 to 17.3% between 2016-2020, according to the report. “People have been severely hit by COVID-19 and by pandemic related restrictions in India, the country with highest child wasting rate worldwide,” the report said.

However, India has shown improvement in other indicators such as the under-5 mortality rate, prevalence of stunting among children and prevalence of undernourishment owing to inadequate food, the report said.

A total of only 15 countries — Papua New Guinea (102), Afghanistan (103), Nigeria (103), Congo (105), Mozambique (106), Sierra Leone (106), Timor-Leste (108), Haiti (109), Liberia (110), Madagascar (111), Democratic Republic of Congo (112), Chad (113), Central African Republic (114), Yemen (115) and Somalia (116) — fared worse than India this year.

A total of 18 countries, including China, Kuwait and Brazil, shared the top rank with GHI score of less than five, the GHI website that tracks hunger and malnutrition across countries reported last week.

According to the report, the share of wasting among children in India rose from 17.1 per cent between 1998-2002 to 17.3 per cent between 2016-2020, “People have been severely hit by COVID-19 and by pandemic related restrictions in India, the country with highest child wasting rate worldwide,” the report said.

Neighboring countries like Nepal (76), Bangladesh (76), Myanmar (71) and Pakistan (92), which are still ahead of India at feeding its citizens, are also in the ‘alarming’ hunger category.

However, India has shown improvement in indicators like the under-5 mortality rate, prevalence of stunting among children and prevalence of undernourishment owing to inadequate food, the report said.

Stating that the fight against hunger is dangerously off track, the report said based on the current GHI projections, the world as a whole — and 47 countries in particular — will fail to achieve even a low level of hunger by 2030.

“Although GHI scores show that global hunger has been on the decline since 2000, progress is slowing. While the GHI score for the world fell 4.7 points, from 25.1 to 20.4, between 2006 and 2012, it has fallen just 2.5 points since 2012. After decades of decline, the global prevalence of undernourishment — one of the four indicators used to calculate GHI scores — is increasing. This shift may be a harbinger of reversals in other measures of hunger,” the report said.

Food security is under assault on multiple fronts, the report said, adding that worsening conflict, weather extremes associated with global climate change, and the economic and health challenges associated with Covid-19 are all driving hunger.

“Inequality — between regions, countries, districts, and communities — is pervasive and, (if) left unchecked, will keep the world from achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) mandate to “leave no one behind,” it said.

India’s wholesale price index (WPI)-based inflation remained in double-digits for the sixth consecutive month in September, though at 10.66% it was lower than 11.39% in August.

Food inflation contracted 4.69% in September compared with a 1.29% fall a month ago, while that of manufactured products rose to 11.41% from 11.39% in August.

The sharp contraction in food prices was mainly due to easing vegetable prices though price of pulses continued to spike at 9.42%. Retail inflation in September also slowed to a five-month low of 4.4% due to moderating food prices.

Fuel’s a concern

The inflation in the fuel and power basket was 24.91% in September, against 26.09% in the previous month. The rise in crude petroleum and natural gas prices was 43.92% in September over 40.03% in the previous month.

Fuel is likely to keep pinching in the days ahead. After two days of lull, petrol and diesel prices were again hiked by 35 paise per litre on Thursday, sending retail pump prices to their highest ever level across the country.  This is the 13th time that petrol price has been hiked in two weeks while diesel rates have gone up 16 times in three weeks.

‘Pandora Papers’ Indicts At Least 380 Indians

A massive investigation from more than 600 journalists across the globe sheds new light into the shadowy world of offshore banking and the high-powered elites who use the system to their benefit.

The exposé, dubbed the “Pandora Papers,” shows how the world’s wealthy hide their money and assets from authorities, their creditors and the public by using a network of lawyers and financial institutions that promise secrecy. It’s built on a trove of 11.9 million records leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which in turn shared them with partner media outlets such as The Washington Post and The Guardian for help conducting the large-scale investigation.

“These are secretive, confidential documents from offshore tax havens and offshore specialists who work to help rich, powerful and sometimes criminal individuals create shell companies or trusts in a way that often helps either obscure assets or in some cases even help avoid paying taxes,” senior ICIJ reporter Will Fitzgibbon told NPR’s Weekend All Things Considered. Pandora Papers, the most voluminous leak of offshore financial records ever, reveal how individuals and businesses set up complex multi-layered trust structures for estate planning, in jurisdictions that are loosely regulated for tax purposes, but characterized by air-tight secrecy laws.

King Abdullah II, who rules Jordan, spent more than $100 million on lavish properties in the U.S. and Europe while his country fell deeper into political turmoil, The Washington Post reported. A woman suspected of being in a years-long relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin became the owner of a pricey Monaco apartment days after reportedly giving birth to his child, the paper also found.

Those are two of more than 300 current or former politicians who appear in the Pandora Papers, the journalists said. Among them are 14 sitting country leaders, including President Luis Abinader of the Dominican Republic, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. According to reports, there are at least 380 persons of Indian nationality in the Pandora Papers. Of these, The Indian Express has so far verified and corroborated documents related to about 60 prominent individuals and companies. These will be revealed in the coming days.

In February 2020, following a dispute with three Chinese state-controlled banks, Anil Ambani told a London court that his net worth was zero. Records in the Pandora Papers investigated by The Indian Express reveal that the chairman of Reliance ADA Group and his representatives own at least 18 offshore companies. Set up between 2007 and 2010, seven of these companies have borrowed and invested at least $1.3 billion.

A financial advisor and his company were barred by SEBI from trading in the stock market for a year and fined for insider trading in Biocon Ltd shares. What the marker regulator did not know is that the same advisor is the ‘Protector’ of a trust set up by a company owned by Biocon Executive Chairperson’s husband.  Indian cricket superstar Sachin Tendulkar, along with members of his family, figures in the Pandora Papers as Beneficial Owners of an offshore entity in the British Virgin Islands which was liquidated in 2016. Sachin, with wife Anjali Tendulkar and father-in-law Anand Mehta are named as BOs and Directors of a BVI-based company.

Captain Satish Sharma, Congress leader, friend of the Gandhi family, and a former Union Minister who passed away in February this year, had offshore entities and properties abroad, the Pandora Papers show. At least 10 members of Sharma’s family including his wife Sterre, children and grandchildren are among the beneficiaries of a trust, the Jan Zegers Trust — a declaration Sharma never made to the Election Commission while filing poll nomination papers.

A month before fugitive diamond jeweller Nirav Modi fled India in January 2018, his sister Purvi Modi set up a firm in the British Virgin Islands to act as a corporate protector of a trust formed through the Trident Trust Company, Singapore. Records investigated by The Indian Express show that the firm, Brookton Management Ltd, was set up in December 2017 to act as the corporate protector of The Deposit Trust. These documents of the new firm and the trust set up by Purvi are part of the Pandora Papers.

Bollywood actor Jackie Shroff was the prime beneficiary of a trust set up in New Zealand by his mother-in-law, records in the Pandora Papers investigated by The Indian Express reveal. He also made “substantial contributions” to this trust, which had a Swiss bank account and owned an offshore company registered in the British Virgin Islands, records show. According to the memorandum concerning the trust, Shroff’s son Jai Shroff (Tiger Shroff) and daughter Krishna Shroff were the beneficiaries, besides Claudia Dutt, the mother of Shroff’s wife Ayesha

Senate Republicans Block Bill, Possibly Shutting Down US Economy

The US Senate voted 48-50 to begin the debate on the measure the House already passed, which wasn’t enough to overcome a Republican filibuster, requiring 60 votes

Senate Republicans blocked a House-passed bill to suspend the debt limit and avert a government shutdown from advancing in the Senate on Monday, September 27, 2021. The move comes after Republicans had insisted that Democrats act alone to address the debt limit and leaves Congress without a clear plan to keep the government open with the threat of a potential shutdown looming by the end of the week.

Government funding is set to expire on September 30, and the stopgap bill the House approved last week would extend funding and keep the government open through December 3. In addition, the measure includes a debt limit suspension through December 16, 2022. The clock is ticking to address the debt limit and Congress may only have until mid-October to act before the federal government can no longer pay its bills.

The Senate voted on a procedural motion to advance the legislation, which needed 60 votes to succeed. Since Democrats control only 50 seats in the chamber, they would have needed 10 Senate Republicans to vote in favor.

The Senate voted 48-50 to begin debate on the measure the House already passed, which wasn’t enough to overcome a Republican filibuster. The bill would have extended government funding to Dec. 3 and suspended the debt limit until Dec. 16, 2022. The measure also would have provided $28.6 billion for disaster assistance and $6.3 billion for Afghan refugees.

But 60 votes were needed to overcome a Republican filibuster. Republicans have insisted that Democrats deal with the debt limit on their own to avoid supporting the broader taxing and spending priorities of Democrats. But Democrats argue both parties should support raising the debt limit, as happened three times during the Trump administration, because a default could spark a worldwide economic crisis.

“It’s an unhinged position to take,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “There is no scenario in God’s green earth where it should be worth risking millions of jobs, trillions in household wealth, people’s Social Security checks, veterans’ benefits and another recession just to score short-term, meaningless political points.”

But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Democrats should separate the government funding extension from the debt limit – and then raise the debt limit themselves.

“Democrats want to use this temporary pandemic as a Trojan horse for permanent socialism,” McConnell said. “Republicans aren’t rooting for a shutdown or debt limit breach.”

Democrats must now find another way to keep the government operating and the country borrowing. Without a funding extension, the federal government will shut down Friday. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen projected the country will reach its limit on borrowing in mid-October.

Democrats do have options to raise the debt limit on their own to prevent the US from defaulting on its debts, but they argue that the vote should be a bipartisan shared responsibility.

Schumer criticized Republicans ahead of the vote, saying, “After today there will be no doubt about which party in this chamber is working to solve the problems that face our country, and which party is accelerating us towards unnecessary, avoidable disaster.”

House starts debate on bipartisan infrastructure bill

The House began an hour of debate Monday on an infrastructure bill, but isn’t expected to vote until Thursday as lawmakers haggle over the rest of President Joe Biden’s agenda. The $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, which includes $550 billion in new funding, has already been approved by a bipartisan majority in the Senate.

A group of nine moderate Democrats negotiated for a vote by Monday in exchange for their support for a $3.5 trillion framework for Biden’s social welfare priorities. The deadline slipped to what moderates said would be “no later than Thursday,” when federal highway legislation expires.

A Comparative Study of India’s Inflation during UPA Vs NDA Government (Dr. ManMohan Singh Government Vs. of Modi Government)

Dr. ManMohan Singh became Prime Minister on 22 May 2004, and he remained in office until 26 May 2014. After that Narendra Modi government has been continuously in power. This article dwells into how both governments faired on controlling inflation in India. We first took the CPI (Consumer Price Index) published by Government of India as a measure of inflation. However, this index represents just a fraction (includes only the goods that consumers consumed) of the total economic activity and ignores the substitution effect that arises from price changes. To have a comprehensive measure of inflation for the economy as a whole and incorporating the substitution effect on net inflation we calculated GDP Deflator where inflation is measured by (GDP at Current prices / GDP at constant prices) -1 and converted into percentage. Finally, we tried to verify the accuracy/consistency of inflation data published by Government of India with the international monetary theory which predicts long run inflation differentials between two countries. For this we used US dollar as the base currency and compared depreciation of rupee as the differential inflation.

This differential inflation between two countries talks about inflation of traded goods and investible assets including stocks and bonds. It also indicates how international investors perceive the overall health of the Indian economy i.e. if they see low inflation of a period as the strength of the economy or the weakness of the economy.  Remember during recession, inflation is low and during deflation inflation is negative, and both the situations are undesirable. The third situation is that of stagflation when real GDP stagnates or declines like we have since Indian Lockdown on account of Covid, while nominal GDP and stock market booms.

Taking historical data from the Economic Survey of India and trading economics for the recent months, we found that during the era of UPA Government (from May 22, 2004m to May 26 2014) headed by Dr. ManMohan Singh, inflation for the entire ten years was 8.48% per annum as per CPI measure, while as per GDP deflator it was 6.81% and as per US inflation differential it was 2.84% and since US inflation has been around 2%, this tells Indian inflation has been around 5% (2.84+2) for traded goods and investible assets. These figures look consistent.

However, Modi government has completed only 7 years, hence it would be fair to compare the inflation figures for the first 7 years of UPA government. During that period (May 2004 Until May 2011), as per CPI measure the annual average inflation rate had been 7.57%, as per GDP Deflator it had been 6.81% and as per US inflation differential it had been negative 0.17%. Rupee actually became stronger vs. US dollar. On 28th May, 2004, the exchange rate was $1 = 45.29 rupees and on May 26, 2011 this rate was $1= 44.75. These exchange rate figures were not much different from average values of the month. This means international investors saw Indian domestic inflation as a mark of strength and demanded more rupee for investments in India because trade deficit and total current account deficit was still there. Huge foreign investments in India (surplus on capital account) made rupee stronger and boosted foreign exchange reserves.

Compared to this, we now see the inflation scenario during NDA (Modi Government) era. As per CPI measure, inflation has remained lower at 5.11% while it was 7.57% under UPA. We then we compare the GDP deflator figures, which we find from our calculation to be equal to 3.19%. The main reason for this low inflation for the entire seven years was the period of demonetization as during the demonetization period, the inflation rate was very low, just 1% during 2016 and 2.8% during 2017. Since this inflation rate was slightly lower than US inflation rate of 2% for the entire two years, rupee became slightly stronger. The principles of economics are working. But after March 2018, the weakness of lower inflation became visible to international investors and rupee sharply depreciated.

On March 31st, 2018, the exchange rate was $1 = 65.01 and within one year it depreciated to 69.30 (a depreciation by 6.6%) giving international inflation figure of 8.6% (6.6+2% US inflation) for the year 2018-19. For the overall seven-year period until May 26, 2021, relative international inflation rate of India has been 3.14% seen by depreciation of rupee measure. This is sharply worse when compared with the relative international inflation figure of (-0.17%) of UPA government for their first seven years. This means that foreigners are either seeing low inflation of India as a weakness of the Indian economy or they are simply not believing the Indian inflation data, otherwise rupee would not have depreciated against dollar. According to International Investors, inflation in India for traded goods and investments should be 3.14%+2% = 5.14% while for Dr. ManMohan Singh’s first seven years period, this figure was just 1.83% (-0.17+2%).

To conclude, we can say that Dr.Manmohan Singh has performed far better in tacking inflation and having a better economic performance when compared to Narender Modi Government. The inflation number achieved by Modi government has been because of negative growth of entire GDP by 9.2% since pandemic, otherwise the performance of Modi Government would have been visibly more worse. People have become so poor that they don’t have enough purchasing power to buy goods. Manufacturing, trade, transport, communication and social-person services all have been in decline. Modi government has failed tremendrously in tacking Inflation when compared with UPA government domestically.

Internationally also, Dr. Manmohan Singh Government had performed much better when compared to the Modi Government in attracting economic investments. Even though the Modi Government has altered the domestic calculation index for GDP and Inflation to show a better picture, international figures are completely reliable as they can not be manipulated by the domestic governments since exchange rates are traded daily. India has seen better economic performance and perception during the Manmohan Singh Government in almost all aspects when compared to the Modi Government.

Sources:

  1. https://www.indiabudget.gov.in/economicsurvey/doc/Statistical-Appendix-in-English.pdf
  2. https://tradingeconomics.com/india/inflation-cpi
  3. https://www.google.com/search?q=exchange+rate+dollar+to+rupee&rlz=1C1CHBF_enUS834US834&sxsrf=AOaemvJLApHUnQXmNy2x8hIJKIVq464nYg%3A1631641979141&ei=e-FAYcrwB4jm_QaBobLwDQ&oq=exchange+rate+dollar&gs_lcp=Cgdnd3Mtd2l6EAEYATIFCAAQgAQyCwgAEIAEELEDEIMBMgoIABCABBCHAhAUMgoIABCABBCHAhAUMgUIABCABDIGCAAQBxAeMgUIABCABDIFCAAQgAQyBQgAEIAEMgUIABCABDoHCAAQRxCwAzoHCCMQsAIQJzoICAAQCBAHEB46BggAEAgQHjoECAAQDToJCAAQDRBGEIICSgQIQRgAUIv4AljokQNguLADaAFwAngAgAG2AYgBsQ6SAQQxLjEymAEAoAEByAEIwAEB&sclient=gws-wiz

Asia Will Represent Half Of The World’s Consumer Spending By 2032

Despite COVID-19, the global consumer class—those who are middle class or rich—is rising fast. In an earlier post, we showed that we are experiencing a truly secular shift in the size of this global consumer class. COVID-19 is a transitory setback of one or two years in this long-term shift. Since 2000, the global consumer class grew by more than 4 percent each year, reaching a new milestone of 4 billion people—for the first time—in 2020 or 2021. At the beginning of this century, the middle class was mostly a Western phenomenon. Consumer companies were selling their goods in OECD countries, especially the USA and Europe. Today, the consumer class is global and increasingly Asian. Spending by the Asian middle class exceeds that in Europe and North America combined.

We define the global consumer class as anyone living in a household spending at least $11 per day per person, of which the global middle class ($11-$110 per day) represents the lion’s share with 3.75 billion people. It is very important to define the global consumer class correctly and allow for comparability across countries and over time. Incorrect definitions could cost companies billions, as Nestle experienced painfully in Africa. The company based its decision to expand on announcements of a rapid rise of Africa’s middle class. While Africa’s middle class has indeed been rising rapidly, the threshold of $3 per day in consumer spending was too low to gain traction with products that are enjoyed by American or European consumers.

Cornel Krummenacher, then chief executive for Nestle’s equatorial Africa region, noted that we thought this would be the next Asia, but we have realized the middle class here in the region is extremely small.” Even today, Africa’s consumer class is only 283 million people strong according to projections by World Data Lab, growing at 4.1 percent per year. However, there is an untapped potential in Africa below the middle-class threshold. If companies want to benefit from Africa’s growth in this decade, a focus closer to the bottom of the pyramid would yield more success.

Under current projections, Asia will represent half of the world’s consumer spending by 2032. By contrast, Asia’s consumer class is advancing strongly. Since 2016, half of the global consumer class has been Asian. Today, out of the 4 billion global middle-class consumers, 2.2 billion live in Asia. However, while Asia has more than half of the world’s consumers, they only represent approximately 41 percent of consumer spending ($26 trillion out of $63 trillion in 2011 purchasing power parity, see Table 1). Under current projections, Asia will represent half of the world’s consumer spending by 2032.

Table 1. Asia’s consumer class power

  Asia Rest of the world TOTAL Asia’s share
Consumer class (billion) 2.2 1.8 4.0 55%
Spending of the consumer class (trillion $) 26 37 63 41%

Source: World Data Lab’s MarketPro; 2021 projections.

Today, there are 13 Asian economies in the top 30. The composition of these top 30 countries will not change until 2030. However, there are big shifts within the top 30: Only 7 countries are expected to keep their position; 14 countries will lose position while 9 countries gain positions (see Figure 1). To assess which countries will move up in the consumer class tally, we used our unique modeling capacity to project the change of the consumer class between 2020 and 2030.

Figure 1. The top 30 consumer markets of this decade
Daily spending of more than $11 (2011 PPP)

Everyone is familiar with consumer class growth in China and India. In Europe and North America, the numbers in the consumer class will stagnate and growth will come about only because households will become richer.But there are other countries, too, growing under the radar, which are forecast to have very large increases, in the tens of millions, in the numbers in the consumer class in 2030.

Here is an overview of the five top movers:

  1. Bangladesh (+17 positions), from place 28 to 11; future consumer class: 85 million (+50 million)
    Global share of consumer class: 0.8 percent (2020), 1.6 percent (2030).
    Bangladesh’s consumer class is projected to more than double by 2030: Today, 35 million people in Bangladesh spend more than $11 a day. By 2030, it will be 85 million!
  2. Pakistan (+8 positions), from place 15 to 7; future consumer class: 121 million (+56 million)
    Global share of consumer class: 6 percent (2020), 2.3 percent (2030).
    Pakistan will add 56 million new consumers by 2030, for a total of 121 million. This means that in 2030, for the first time, every other Pakistani will be able to spend more than $11 per day.
  3. Vietnam (+7 positions), from place 26 to 19; future consumer class: 56 million (+21 million)
    Global share of consumer class: 9 percent (2020), 1.1 percent (2030).
    Vietnam’s consumer class will grow from 35 million to 56 million within this decade, which is a success story particularly of the middle-aged generation: Consumers between 45 and 65 years of age will contribute nearly 25 percent of Vietnam’s spending, as opposed to 20 percent today.
  4. Philippines (+6 positions), from place 20 to 14; future consumer class: 79 million (+38 million)
    Global share of consumer class: 1 percent (2020), 1.5 percent (2030)
    . The Filipino consumer class is projected to grow steadily, from 41 million today to 79 million in 2030. By then, more than two-thirds of the Filipino population will spend more than $11 per day.
  5. Indonesia (+2 positions), from place 6 to 4; future consumer class: 199 million (+76 million)
    Global share of consumer class: 2 percent (2020), 3.8 percent (2030).
    While Indonesia is only moving up two places, it is experiencing a large gain of consumer class growth. Starting from an already large base of 123 million, Indonesia will have almost 200 million consumers in 2030, making it the fourth-largest consumer market in the world.

The big message of this analysis is that the consumer class is spreading across the world, and that many emerging markets will have large consumer markets where supply-chain-scale economies, digital platforms, and local preferences will need to be better understood and developed.

Is U.S. Losing The Race To Decide The Future Of Money?

In cities across China, the country’s central bank has begun rolling out the e-renminbi—an all-digital version of its paper currency that can be accessed and accepted by merchants and consumers without an internet connection, credit or even a bank account. Already having conducted more than $5 billion in e-renminbi transactions, China has opened its digital currency up to foreigners. Next year, when Beijing hosts the Winter Olympic Games, authorities are expecting to let the world test drive its technological achievement.

The U.S., by contrast, is having trouble even concluding its multi-year exploration into the possibility of an e-dollar. In fact, an upcoming Federal Reserve paper on a potential U.S. digital currency won’t take a position on whether the central bank of the United States will, or even should, create one. Instead, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said in recent testimony to Congress, this paper will “begin a major public consultation on central bank digital currencies…” (Once planned for July, the paper’s release has since been moved to September.)

Once the world leader in digital payments and technological innovation, the U.S. is being outpaced by its top global adversary as well as much of the industrialized and the developing world. The Bahamas recently announced the integration of its digital Sand Dollar into a stock exchange, while Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and South Africa are moving forward with the world’s first cross-border central bank digital currency exchange program led by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), which is known as the central bank of central banks.

Such developments have been somewhat outshined by El Salvador’s recent decision to make bitcoin a legally accepted currency, which few expect to make significant impact in the payment space. But outside of the cryptocurrency space, nations around the globe are making significant strides in the development of the digital future of money — supported by governments and backed by powerful central banks. Leadership in this space will have implications for more than just payments: geopolitical ambitions, economic growth, financial inclusion and the very nature of money could all be dictated by who leads the charge and how.

“I don’t think the U.S. is aware there is a race”

Digital currencies are the next wave in the “evolution of the nature of money in the digital economy,” Hyun Song Shin, economic adviser and co-leader of the Monetary and Economic Department at the Bank for International Settlements, tells TIME. As more of our world migrates from physical brick-and-mortar to wireless and cloud-based, the way we pay for things is changing as well. A central bank digital currency would operate just like cash, but instead of having to carry it in a physical wallet or put it into a bank account, it would be stored and accessed digitally. Not only could U.S.-backed digital currency facilitate easier, modern banking, it could prove vital in protecting American international influence.

Late to the party, the U.S. is “stepping up its research and public engagement” on digital currencies, the Federal Reserve says, including forming working groups on cryptocurrency and other kinds of digital money, and experimenting with technology that would be central to producing a digital dollar. The Fed’s regional Boston branch is overseeing these efforts with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on what’s known as Project Hamilton. But the path towards a digital U.S. dollar has met many challenges, skeptics and outright opponents. All while China, and other countries, push forward.

Lagging behind the world

Just how far behind is the U.S. in the development of a central bank-issued digital currency (CBDC)? According to global accounting firm PwC’s inaugural CBDC global index, which tracks various CBDCs’ project status from research to development and production, the U.S. ranks 18th in the world. America’s potential efforts trail countries like Sweden, South Korea and China but also countries like the Bahamas, Ecuador, Eastern Caribbean and Turkey. China, with its government’s hyperfocus on maintaining control and overseeing data, has been working to develop a CBDC for almost a decade.

And the U.S. is probably not close to catching up. Analysts like Harvard economics professor Kenneth Rogoff, who study monetary policy and digital currencies, estimate that the U.S. could be at least a decade away from issuing a digital dollar backed by the Fed. In that time, Rogoff argued in an op-ed earlier this year, the modernization of China’s financial markets and reduction or removal of its currency controls “could deal the dollar’s status a painful blow.”

China has already largely moved away from coin and paper currency; Chinese consumers have racked up more than $41 trillion in mobile transactions, according to a recent research paper from the Brookings Institution, with the lion’s share (92%) going through digital payment processors WeChat Pay and Alipay.

“The reason you could say the U.S. is behind in the digital currency race is I don’t think the U.S. is aware there is a race,” Yaya Fanusie, an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security, and a former CIA analyst, tells TIME in an interview. “A lot of policymakers are looking at it and concerned…but even with that I just don’t think there’s this sense of urgency because the risk from China is not an immediate threat.” Not only is the U.S. running significantly behind in the development of a CBDC, we are trailing the rest of the world in digital payments broadly.

Kenya, for example, has almost fully digitized its economy through its digital currency and payment system MPESA, making transactions free and almost instantaneous. India’s Unified Payments Interface (UPI) allows users to transfer money instantly between bank accounts with no cost. Brazil’s PIX facilitates the transfer of money between people and companies in up to 10 seconds. All of these programs work through and are overseen by the countries’ central banks rather than commercial banks or other private companies.

What’s holding the U.S. back?

Critics argue CBDCs are simply a solution in search of a problem and potentially harmful. Many see support from the banking sector as vital to the success of a digital U.S. dollar, however commercial banks in the U.S. have taken a largely adversarial stance. “The proposed benefits of CBDCs to international competitiveness and financial inclusion are theoretical, difficult to measure and may be elusive,” the American Bankers Association said in a statement at a recent congressional hearing on digital currencies. “While the negative consequences for monetary policy, financial stability, financial intermediation, the payments system, and the customers and communities that banks serve could be severe.”

The Bank Policy Institute, which lobbies on behalf of the country’s largest banks, went so far as to argue that neither the Fed nor the U.S. Treasury even has the constitutional authority to issue a digital currency. Commercial banks dominate the U.S. financial system to such a degree that unraveling them would be ostensibly impossible, experts say, they also would be a powerful adversary. Former Goldman Sachs managing director Nomi Prins notes banks have clearly seen the writing on the wall.

“Banks are centralized middlemen with respect to financial transactions,” Prins, author of Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged The World, tells TIME. “The more popular cryptocurrency or digital currency becomes, the fewer profits the banking system can reap from traditional services and verification methods that allow them to hold, take or use their customers’ money, and the more financial power they stand to lose as a result.” Even disruptive financial technologies like PayPal, Venmo and Zelle work through the banking system, rather than around it, thanks in large part to the banks’ power.

Central bankers also generally have concluded that commercial banks are a necessary piece of a potential CBDC ecosystem, thanks to their pre-existing regulatory guardrails and ability to move money. Top policymakers at the Fed, including influential Vice Chair for Supervision Randal Quarles, have joined the banking industry in arguing that a digital dollar “could pose significant and concrete risks” and that the potential benefits “are unclear.” Fed Governor Christopher Waller said in August he was “skeptical that a Federal Reserve CBDC would solve any major problem confronting the U.S. payment system,” in a recent speech he titled “CBDC: A Solution in Search of a Problem?”  Further, there’s no central U.S. authority with direct oversight or responsibility for any of this.

In addition to the Fed, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of Thrift Supervision, Financial Stability Oversight Council, Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council and the Office of Financial Research would all have some stake in the development of a digital currency backed by the central bank, to say nothing of state and regional authorities.

“The U.S. has an active congressional debate, which is beneficial and very important,” Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard tells TIME in an interview. “But the U.S. also has a diffusion of regulatory responsibility with no single payments regulator at the federal level, which is not as helpful. That diffusion of responsibility is part of what creates the lags that our system is working through.” None of this exists in China where the Chinese Communist Party oversees the central bank, commercial banks and their regulators and is unconcerned with privacy.

How a downgraded dollar could hamstring U.S. influence

An American CBDC could have lasting geopolitical impact and curb a longstanding international effort to reduce reliance on the mighty U.S. dollar. “Why we should care about this is that the U.S. financial system is not intrinsically dominant,” Fanusie says. “Other countries, both allies and adversaries, are sincerely interested in finding ways to decrease their dependence on the dollar.” With the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve and primary funding currency, the U.S. can restrict access to funding from financial markets, limit countries’ ability to sell their natural resources and hinder or block individuals’ access to the banking sector.

“Other countries, both allies and adversaries, are sincerely interested in finding ways to decrease their dependence on the dollar”

While dollar dominance has rankled much of the world for decades, there has been no suitable replacement for the U.S., with its massive economy, sophisticated banking system and sprawling international presence. China is in the midst of a long-term push to simultaneously grow its financial markets and internationalize its currency. Both have the end goal of allowing China and its allies to limit the ability of the U.S. to enforce its will through economic actions like sanctions. Fanusie wrote in a January report that being the first major economy to roll out a digital currency is “part of China’s geopolitical ambitions.”

However, the renminbi will not become the world’s reserve currency — at least, not any time soon. But what China has done by being in the forefront of CBDC development is put itself in position to take the lead on development and implementation of rules and regulations for digital currencies on a global scale. “While America led the global revolution in payments half a century ago with magnetic striped credit and debit cards, China is leading the new revolution in digital payments,” writes Brookings’ economic studies fellow Aaron Klein.

Why should central banks offer digital currencies?

Over the past decade, digital currencies, including cryptocurrency and “stablecoins,” have sprung up like weeds. Some purport to be just as safe as dollars, but are backed by questionable assets. In a crisis regulators worry they could fluctuate wildly in value or lose their value altogether. Having central banks, which are responsible for the printing and circulation of coins and paper money, issue digital currencies is in part a reaction to this private sector activity, Shin says, “accelerated by the potential encroachment of private digital currencies, and the need to preserve the role of money as a public good.”

“The status quo is not an option”

Notably, a U.S. digital currency could provide benefits to everyday people. It could increase financial inclusion and fix flaws in current payments systems, Shin adds, citing findings of a recent BIS study.

For example, transferring money between U.S.-based bank accounts, even those held by the same person, can take days. The process can be even longer when crossing international borders. Credit and debit card transactions similarly don’t settle for days and come with significant fees for merchants, who sometimes pass them on to customers. CBDCs could grant universal access to the banking sector and quickly facilitate the distribution of paychecks and government funds, reducing the need for costly bank workarounds like check cashing and payday loans.

Championing CBDCs

Brainard has been pushing the Fed to move on a digital currency for years, but there was little urgency from others at the Fed or in Congress. Companies developing their own currencies, consumers investing in cryptocurrency and the COVID-19 pandemic making paper notes anathema to many Americans changed that. Before COVID-19, Facebook’s Libra project (now known as Diem) showed lawmakers and central bankers the potential for a private company to step in and fill the void by effectively minting its own currency that could be spent by users around the world.

“The status quo is not an option,” Diem co-creator David Marcus said at the International Monetary Fund’s 2019 fall meeting. “Whether it’s Libra or something else, the world is going to change in a profound way.” Brainard, for one, has taken notice. “My own thinking is that stablecoins and related private sector initiatives are moving very rapidly, which makes it incumbent on us to move more rapidly,” she tells TIME. “That is why I have been pushing to advance outreach, cross-border engagement, and policy and technology research for several years now.” So-called stablecoins — unregulated digital currencies created by private companies that purport to represent dollars but are completely unregulated — have become a significant worry for lawmakers and shown the importance of considering tying currency to a central bank.

“It’s getting harder and harder for community banks to compete for new customers when big tech companies can afford to spend billions on marketing and technology,” Sen. Sherrod Brown, who chairs the Senate Banking Committee, tells TIME. “But many of these new ‘fintech’ products don’t come with the consumer protections, federal backing or customer service and relationships with the community that small banks and credit unions provide.”

During a hearing on digital currencies in June, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection, compared stablecoins to worthless “wildcat notes” that were issued by speculators in the 19th century. Her expert at that hearing, Lev Menand, an Academic Fellow and Lecturer in Law at Columbia Law School, went further in his testimony, calling stablecoins “dangerous to both their users and … to the broader financial system.”

With private companies pushing deeper into the digital currency space, rival countries seeking to seize leadership and a public that is moving further away from physical currency, the U.S. is facing a world in which it may not control or even lead the world’s payment systems. That would make the future of money look very different from the past.

Take Advantage of This ‘Fantastic Opportunity’ To Pay Off Student Loans

If you have federal student loan debt, you now have approximately six months to prepare for payments on that debt to restart. Last week, President Joe Biden’s administration announced it is stretching out the moratorium on federal student loan payments until Jan. 31, 2022. This means that payments will not resume until next year and interest rates will remain at 0%. The latest extension comes shortly after two-thirds of borrowers said it would be difficult for them to afford payments if they resumed the following month, according to a recent survey by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

“What a fantastic opportunity for borrowers to take more control of their finances,” says Laurel Taylor, CEO and founder of FutureFuel.io, a student debt repayment platform. “It will be near two years of payment suspension as we look to January 31. I would really encourage borrowers to maximize this opportunity — whatever that means to them.” The freeze on federal student loan payments was originally set to expire at the end of September. This latest extension will be the “final” one, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Education.

Pro Tip

Make sure your address and email are up-to-date with your loan servicer, so you don’t miss any important information about your student loans and the temporary extension. That means any student loan debt you had before the COVID-19 pandemic will be waiting for you when repayment begins at the end of the forbearance period, unless the policy changes again. Experts say you shouldn’t count on any of your debt disappearing in the meantime, because it’s unlikely that there will be broad student loan forgiveness —not even the $10,000 that Biden promised during the campaign, that is.

“I don’t see $10,000 in student loan forgiveness coming. I just don’t think he legally can without Congress,” says Robert Farrington, founder and CEO of The College Investor, a site providing advice on student loan debt. “But I do think he’s able to do a lot of good with the powers he has, such as reforming programs that already exist.”

What to Do in Light of Biden’s Extension of Student Loan Relief

Given this latest update, now may be a good time to rethink your student loan repayment strategy. Keep in mind that everyone’s situation is different, but here’s what you should do in light of the extension of the student loan payment freeze, according to experts we spoke to.

If You’ve Experienced Job Loss or Decrease in Income

Use this time to give yourself breathing room to address other financial priorities. If you’re unemployed or your income has decreased over the last year, continue to focus on covering your necessary expenses, such as rent or mortgage payments, utilities, groceries, transportation, and the like. “This relief is targeted toward people who have experienced a job loss or a decrease in income. I advise them to focus on necessary living expenses and try not to have that guilt or worry about setting money aside for student loans because this time is for you,” says Cindy Zuniga-Sanchez, personal finance coach and founder of Zero-Based Budget, a financial education platform on Instagram.

Another thing you can do to lower your monthly payment when it’s due is apply for income-driven repayment. An income-driven repayment plan is a monthly payment based on your family size and a percentage of discretionary income. If you earn less than 150% of the federal poverty line, your payments could be as low as $0.  To sign up, go to this federal student aid page, and click on “log in” at the top to start an application. If you are already enrolled in an income-driven plan and your income has changed, ask your lender to recertify your income before payments restart. If you make all your payments on time, an IDR plan allows your loans to be forgiven at the end of the repayment period — even if they aren’t fully repaid.

If you’re unsure what the best repayment option is for you, reach out to your loan servicer for help or go to studentaid.gov.  “Be mindful that your payments may not actually cover the interest that’s accumulating on your loan, which means you could end up paying a significant amount in interest,” says Zuniga-Sanchez. “I want to put that caution out there because it’s very important to be informed when we are making these changes to our student loan repayment strategies.”

If You Still Have a Job or Income

You can use these extra months to help divert some money toward building an emergency fund or pay more pressing high-interest debt, such as credit cards or private student loans.  “Nobody should be paying extra payments toward their loans at this time. Even if you’re able to, you should save that money and eliminate other debts,” says Farrington.

If you haven’t already, prioritize building an emergency fund first. Try to set aside three to six months’ of expenses, but don’t feel overwhelmed if saving that much feels like an unattainable goal right now. Start small, and go from there. Next, focus on paying down high-interest debt — these strategies can help you do that. You can also use extra funds to invest in retirement accounts, such as a 401(k), IRA, or Roth IRA, or pay down any lower-interest debt you may have, such as medical debt or a car loan.  If you want to pay down your student loans during this 0% interest period, Farrington suggests putting that money in a savings account and then making a lump sum payment right before payments start up again. “That way, you keep that money as long as you can,” he says.

If You Are Behind on Student Loan Payments

Because all collection activities will resume once the extension ends, try to rehabilitate your loans as soon as possible. Default on federal loans happens when a payment is 270 days past due, sending your loans to collections and exposing you to damaged credit, garnished wages, and seized tax refunds. “Get out of default so that as payments and collection activity resume, you’re not left getting your wages or taxes garnished,” says Farrington.

To rehabilitate your student loans and get out of default, you’ll need to contact your loan servicer, fill out an application, and follow a specific process. If your application is approved and you make nine on-time payments, even during this forbearance period, your loans will typically transfer to a new loan servicer, and you’ll be out of default.

If loan rehabilitation isn’t possible for you at this time, there is additional deferment and forbearance outside of COVID-19 relief that can give you more time to get back on your feet. For example, there’s unemployment deferment and economic hardship deferment, which both temporarily suspend payments on your student loans. But these options should be your last resort.

The Bottom Line

If you’re part of the majority, you likely haven’t made student loan payments in almost two years. Even though the forbearance period has been extended, now is an excellent opportunity to review your finances and make a plan for resuming payments come next year.  For example, you may need to trim or readjust certain spending areas now, so you have room in your budget in 2022 when payment is due. Based on the most recent announcement, it’s safe to assume student loan payments will restart in 2022 and it’s better to get ahead of the curve while you can. “Two years of suspension on student loan payments is unprecedented,” says Laurel, “and it is an opportunity for borrowers to get ahead.”

Janet Yellen Warns, US Could Default On National Debt In October

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned congressional leaders that the U.S. is on track to default on the national debt in October if the White House and Congress are unable to raise the debt limit. In a letter, Yellen said that the Treasury Department would likely run out of cash and exhaust “extraordinary” measures to keep the federal government within its legal borrowing limit at some point next month.

“Once all available measures and cash on hand are fully exhausted, the United States of America would be unable to meet its obligations for the first time in our history,” Yellen said. “Given this uncertainty, the Treasury Department is not able to provide a specific estimate of how long the extraordinary measures will last. However, based on our best and most recent information, the most likely outcome is that cash and extraordinary measures will be exhausted during the month of October,” she continued. Yellen wrote the letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

The Treasury Department has taken so-called extraordinary measures to prevent the U.S. from defaulting on the national debt since the federal debt limit was reimposed on Aug. 1. If the Treasury Department runs out of ways to stave off a default without borrowing more money, the inability of the U.S. to pay its debts could send debilitating shockwaves through the financial system. Yellen urged lawmakers for months to raise the debt limit before it was reimposed in August, warning that a delay could “cause irreparable damage to the U.S. economy and global financial markets.” She has since pleaded with Congress to give Treasury the ability to pay debts already approved by previous presidents and congressional majorities.

“Waiting until the last minute to suspend or increase the debt limit can cause serious harm to business and consumer confidence, raise short-term borrowing costs for taxpayers, and negatively impact the credit rating of the United States,” Yellen wrote. “At a time when American families, communities, and businesses are still suffering from the effects of the ongoing global pandemic, it would be particularly irresponsible to put the full faith and credit of the United States at risk.” Even so, Democrats and Republicans are locked in a stalemate over who bears responsibility for protecting the full faith and credit of the U.S. The White House and Democratic leaders are planning to tie a debt limit increase to another must-pass government funding bill, daring Republicans to trigger both a government shutdown and a default by opposing the measure.

“We fully expect Congress to act promptly to suspend the debt limit and protect the full faith and credit of the United States and we expect them to do that in a bipartisan way just as they did three times during the prior administration,” said a White House official. But Republicans have refused to raise the debt ceiling unless spending cuts and debt reduction programs are attached.

$400-Billion New City In The American Desert Planned

The cleanliness of Tokyo, the diversity of New York and the social services of Stockholm: Billionaire Marc Lore has outlined his vision for a 5-million-person “new city in America” and appointed a world-famous architect to design it. Now, he just needs somewhere to build it — and $400 billion in funding. The former Walmart executive last week unveiled plans for Telosa, a sustainable metropolis that he hopes to create, from scratch, in the American desert. The ambitious 150,000-acre proposal promises eco-friendly architecture, sustainable energy production and a purportedly drought-resistant water system. A so-called “15-minute city design” will allow residents to access their workplaces, schools and amenities within a quarter-hour commute of their homes.

Although planners are still scouting for locations, possible targets include Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Texas and the Appalachian region, according to the project’s official website. The announcement was accompanied by a series of digital renderings by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), the architecture firm hired to bring Lore’s utopian dream to life. The images show residential buildings covered with greenery and imagined residents enjoying abundant open space. With fossil-fuel-powered vehicles banned in the city, autonomous vehicles are pictured traveling down sun-lit streets alongside scooters and pedestrians.

Another image depicts a proposed skyscraper, dubbed Equitism Tower, which is described as “a beacon for the city.” The building features elevated water storage, aeroponic farms and an energy-producing photovoltaic roof that allow it to “share and distribute all it produces.” The first phase of construction, which would accommodate 50,000 residents across 1,500 acres, comes with an estimated cost of $25 billion. The whole project would be expected to exceed $400 billion, with the city reaching its target population of 5 million within 40 years. Funding will come from “various sources,” project organizers said, including private investors, philanthropists, federal and state grants, and economic development subsidies. Planners hope to approach state officials “very soon,” with a view to welcoming the first residents by 2030.

A new urban model In addition to innovative urban design, the project also promises transparent governance and what it calls a “new model for society.” Taking its name from the ancient Greek word “telos” (a term used by the philosopher Aristotle to describe an inherent or higher purpose), the city would allow residents to “participate in the decision-making and budgeting process.” A community endowment will meanwhile offer residents shared ownership of the land. In a promotional video, Lore described his proposal as the “most open, most fair and most inclusive city in the world.” Lore founded jet.com before selling it to Walmart and joining the retail giant as head of US e-commerce in 2016. He left the company earlier this year, saying that his retirement plans included working on a reality TV show, advising startups and building a “city of the future.”

On Telosa’s official website, Lore explains that he was inspired by American economist and social theorist Henry George. The investor cites capitalism’s “significant flaws,” attributing many of them to “the land ownership model that America was built on.” “Cities that have been built to date from scratch are more like real estate projects,” Lore said in a promotional video for the project. “They don’t start with people at the center. Because if you started with people at the center, you would immediately think, ‘OK, what’s the mission and what are the values?’

BIG’s founder, Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, is meanwhile quoted as saying that Telosa “embodies the social and environmental care of Scandinavian culture, and the freedom and opportunity of a more American culture.” It is not the first new city being planned by Ingels’ firm, which famously installed a ski slope on top of a Copenhagen power plant and has co-designed Google’s new headquarters in London and California. In January 2020, Japanese carmaker Toyota revealed that it had commissioned BIG to create a master plan for a new 2,000-person city in the foothills of Mount Fuji. Although significantly smaller than Telosa, the project, dubbed Woven City, promises autonomous vehicle testing, smart technology and robot-assisted living.

Bitcoin Is Now Official Currency In This Country

El Salvador has become the first country to adopt bitcoin as legal tender on September 7th, a real-world experiment proponents say will lower commission costs for billions of dollars sent from abroad but which critics warned may fuel money laundering.  The change means businesses should accept payment in bitcoin alongside the U.S. dollar, which has been El Salvador’s official currency since 2001 and will remain legal tender.  President Nayib Bukele, who has pushed for adopting the cryptocurrency, says it will help Salvadorans save about $400 million the government calculates is spent annually on commissions for remittances, while giving access to financial services to the unbanked.

The 40-year-old president is popular with the public but has been accused of eroding democracy, including by the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden.  Doubters say bitcoin could increase regulatory and financial risks for the Central American nation, and polls show Salvadorans are wary of the volatility of the cryptocurrency, which can shed hundreds of dollars in value in a day.  To warm up a skeptical public, Bukele has promised every citizen $30 in bitcoin if they sign up for a government digital wallet. Ahead of the launch, El Salvador bought 400 bitcoins, Bukele said, helping drive the currency price above $52,000 for the first time since May.

Underscoring the risks, bitcoin weakened about 4% to $50,516 hours later. In the early hours of Tuesday, El Salvador’s wallet had not appeared on Apple Inc, Google and Huawei’s app download platforms, however, prompting a series of tweets from Bukele, including one with a red-faced “angry” emoticon.  “Release him! @Apple @Google and @Huawei,” Bukele said. The wallet was later available from Huawei.  Some citizens were optimistic. “It’s going to be beneficial … we have family in the United States and they can send money at no cost, whereas banks charge,” said Reina Isabel Aguilar, a store owner in El Zonte Beach, some 49 km (30 m) southwest of capital San Salvador.  Known as Bitcoin Beach, the town of El Zonte aims to become one of the world’s first bitcoin economies. However, uptake may be slowed by low internet penetration across the country. It remains unclear whether businesses will be sanctioned if they do not adopt the new currency.

In the run-up to the launch, the government installed ATMs that will allow bitcoin to be converted into dollars and withdrawn without commission from the digital wallet, called Chivo.  Bukele on Monday asked for patience.  “Like all innovations, El Salvador’s bitcoin process has a learning curve,” he said on Twitter. “Not everything will be achieved in a day, or in a month.”  In barely two years in office, Bukele has taken control of almost all levers of power. Last week, top judges appointed by his lawmakers ruled he could serve a second term. Bukele has promised to clean up graft, but the Biden administration recently put some of his close allies on a corruption blacklist.  Analysts fear adopting the cryptocurrency could fuel money laundering.. After the bitcoin law was approved, rating agency Moody’s downgraded El Salvador’s creditworthiness, while the country’s dollar-denominated bonds have also come under pressure.

The move has muddied the outlook for El Salvador’s quest for more than $1 billion in financing from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).  But Bukele, who does not shy away from controversy, on Monday retweeted a video that showed his face superimposed on actor Jaime Foxx’s in a scene from Django Unchained, a Quentin Tarantino film about American slavery. The video portrayed Bukele whipping a slave trader who had the IMF emblem emblazoned on his face.  Bukele later deleted the retweet.  In his own tweet, Bukele said: “We must break the paradigms of the past. El Salvador has the right to advance towards the first world.”

Thiru Vignarajah Named CEO Of Capital Plus Financial

Sri Lankan American Thiru Vignarajah, who recently fell short in the race for the Baltimore, Maryland, mayoral race last year, was named to a post in the financial industry. Vignarajah, the former federal and state prosecutor who has run high-profile campaigns for mayor of Baltimore and Baltimore City state’s attorney in recent years, Aug. 30 was named the chief executive officer at Capital Plus Financial, a community development financial institution and subsidiary of Crossroads Systems, Inc.

“Thiru’s personal journey and record of leadership and service embody the values that define Capital Plus,” former Capital Plus Financial CEO Eric Donnelly, who will remain CEO of the holding company, Crossroads Systems Inc., said in a statement. “It is hard to imagine a better person to help write the next chapter of our remarkable story.” Capital Plus bills itself as a company dedicated to closing the wealth gap in the U.S., according to a local Patch report.

The company said its loan portfolio balance grew to more than $130 million over the past year, and that it helped small businesses survive the pandemic by approving nearly 480,000 federal Paycheck Protection Program loans amounting to $7.6 billion, more than 80 percent of which went directly to companies and independent contractors of color, the report notes.

“Capital Plus has emerged as a national leader in tackling the barriers that fuel the racial wealth gap, from access to capital and low financial literacy to discrimination in mortgage lending and lack of credit history,” Vignarajah said in a statement. “This is a pioneering community financial institution that is not just talking about these longstanding problems, but finding ways to solve them. I am honored by the opportunity to build on this success and continue this mission-driven work,” he said.

India’s Chennai Turning into a Data Center Hub

Tamil Nadu’s capital city Chennai after being the ‘Detroit’ of India for housing several automobile makers is turning out to become a major data center hub. With the central government and Reserve Bank of India insisting on players to have their data stored in India, the data center business is getting a boost.

“With three submarine cable landing stations (one more to come), a comfortable power supply position (data Centre capacity is generally measured in MW), the availability of market and knowledge pool, Chennai is an ideal location,” Nikhil Rathi, CEO and Founder of Web Werks India Pvt Ltd, a major player told IANS.

Adding further he said the Covid-19 lockdown saw huge amount of data traffic and it is growing. Web Werks has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Tamil Nadu government to build a 20MW data Centre here at an outlay of about Rs.700 crore and will have a headcount of 100.

For Web Works, Chennai will be its second largest location in India. The company has its data centers in Mumbai, Pune and Delhi in India. It also has data centers overseas. The Tamil Nadu government is working to come out with a separate policy for data centers to strengthen the ecosystem.

“Most common requirements of data Centre’s pertaining to housing regulations and power are being worked upon to encourage data Centre investments and further downstream investments,” the state government said.

Rathi said all buildings cannot house a data center. The building that houses a data Centre will generally need a higher ceiling. “The buildings are machine specific,” Rathi added.

According to the state government, there are six submarine data cables with a bandwidth of 14.8 Tbps. The rural areas in Tamil Nadu are also well connected with more than 12,524 village panchayats with a minimum scalable bandwidth of 1 Gbps. As per TRAI, Chennai is among the top five service areas in India for broadband subscriptions.

The state government has signed Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) with nine companies for setting up data centers with a total proposed investment of Rs 16,927 crore and employment potential of over 9,000 jobs over the last two years.

National and international companies, including Yotta, Princeton Digital, ST Telemedia, Netmagic and Adani are in the process of setting up their data centers in Chennai. The Ambattur locality in Chennai is the preferred choice for data center companies owing to its favourable geographical conditions and existing data center ecosystem.

Siruseri is the next ideal destination due to the presence of several IT companies, which offers a great market opportunity, the government said.  Rathi said there is a good market for data centres in Southern cities like Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad owing to the concentration of IT companies, talent pool.

He said Tamil Nadu has the single window clearance which eases the regulatory clearance process. As per a JLL report, Mumbai and Chennai are expected to drive 73 per cent of the sector’s total capacity addition during 2021-23, while other cities like Hyderabad and Delhi-NCR emerging as new hotspots.

India’s data center sector will require investment of $3.7 billion over the next three years in order to fulfill the 6 million square feet greenfield development, JLL said.

Data centres in Chennai:

Ambattur
STTelemedia Data Center
NTT Netmagic
NTT Netmagic (Upcoming expansion)
Princeton Digital (Upcoming)
ST Telemedia (Upcoming)
Siruseri SIPCOT IT Park
Nxtra site 1
Vodafone
Reliance Jio
Nxtra site 1 (Upcoming)
Adani Group (Upcoming)
Technoelectric (Upcoming)
Mantra Data Centres (Upcoming)
Taramani
Sify.

Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Moves Forward in US Senate

The US Senate has voted to move forward on a bipartisan infrastructure bill after weeks of negotiations last week, clearing a key procedural hurdle on a bill that includes $550 billion in new spending for infrastructure projects around the country, media reports here said.

In the 67 to 32 vote, 17 Republicans including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell joined Democrats to advance the bill. The proposal includes some of President Biden’s top domestic priorities and provides billions of dollars in funding for bridges, roads, broadband internet, clean water, public transit and more over the next five years. It encapsulates so-called “hard” infrastructure and is separate from Democratic efforts to pass a $3.5 trillion package for so-called “soft” infrastructure, which includes policies like Medicare expansion and universal child care.

“This deal signals to the world that our democracy can function, deliver, and do big things,” President Biden said in a statement before the vote. “As we did with the transcontinental railroad and the interstate highway, we will once again transform America and propel us into the future.”

The long-awaited text of a nearly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package has come to be realized after several months of negotiations and a month after President Biden and a bipartisan group of senators first announced such a deal.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act focuses on investments in roads, railways, bridges and broadband internet, but it does not include investments that Biden has referred to as “human infrastructure,” including money allocated for child care and tax credits for families. Democrats are looking to address those priorities separately. The package calls for $550 billion in new spending over five years.

The bipartisan bill would be funded by unspent emergency relief funds, corporate user fees and strengthened tax enforcement for crypto currencies, among “other bipartisan measures,” the White House said. The bill would also use roughly $53 billion from states that returned unused enhanced federal unemployment money.

Former President Trump has termed the “so-called bipartisan bill” terrible, and vowed to primary GOP Senators who vote for it.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said the final product, just over 2,700 pages long, will be “great for the American people.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Senate will consider amendments this week and a final vote could be held “in a matter of days.”

“It’s been decades since Congress passed such a significant standalone investment,” the New York Democrat said, “and I salute the hard work done that was here by everybody.”

Here’s a look at what’s included in the agreement:

Transportation

Roads, bridges, major projects: $110 billion

Passenger and freight rail: $66 billion

Public transit: $39 billion

Airports: $25 billion

Port infrastructure: $17 billion

Transportation safety programs: $11 billion

Electric vehicles: $7.5 billion

Zero and low-emission buses and ferries: $7.5 billion

Reconnect communities: $1 billion

Other infrastructure

Broadband: $65 billion

Power infrastructure: $73 billion

Clean drinking water: $55 billion

Resilience and Western water storage: $50 billion

Environmental remediation: $21 billion

How would they pay for it?

According to a recent fact sheet from the White House released a few days before the final legislation was unveiled, the package will be financed through a combination of funds, including repurposing unspent emergency relief funds from the COVID-19 pandemic and strengthening tax enforcement for cryptocurrencies.

Goals of the plan

Back in June, the White House shared a fact sheet with the aims of the package: Improve healthy, sustainable transportation options for millions of Americans by modernizing and expanding transit and rail networks across the country while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Repair and rebuild roads and bridges with a focus on climate change mitigation, resilience, equity and safety for all users, including cyclists and pedestrians.

Build a national network of electric vehicle chargers along highways and in rural and disadvantaged communities.

Electrify thousands of school and transit buses across the country to reduce harmful emissions and drive domestic manufacturing of zero emission vehicles and components.

Eliminate the nation’s lead service lines and pipes, delivering clean drinking water to up to 10 million American families and more than 400,000 schools and child care facilities that currently don’t have it, including in tribal nations and disadvantaged communities.

Connect every American to reliable high-speed internet.

Upgrade the power infrastructure, including by building thousands of miles of new, resilient transmission lines to facilitate the expansion of renewable energy, including through a new grid authority.

Create a first-of-its-kind Infrastructure Financing Authority that will leverage billions of dollars into clean transportation and clean energy.

Make the largest investment in addressing legacy pollution in American history.

Prepare more infrastructure for impacts of climate change, cyberattacks and extreme weather events.

India Launches E-RUPI Digital Payment Platform

(E-RUPI Digital Payment Solution is a cashless and contactless instrument for digital payment. It is a QR code or SMS string-based e-Voucher, which is delivered to the mobile of the beneficiaries)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched digital payment solution e-RUPI, a person and purpose specific cashless digital payment solution, via videoconference on Monday, August 2, 2021. Speaking on the occasion, he said the eRUPI voucher was a symbol of how India was progressing by connecting people’s lives with technology. He expressed happiness that this futuristic reform initiative had come at a time when the country was celebrating the Amrit Mahotsav on the 75th anniversary of Independence.

e-RUPI is a cashless and contactless instrument for digital payment. It gets delivered to the mobile phones of beneficiaries through a QR code or SMS string. The users of this new one-time payment mechanism will be able to redeem the voucher without a card, digital payments app or internet banking access, at the service provider.

The platform has been developed by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) on its unified payments interface (UPI) platform, in collaboration with the Department of Financial Services, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and the National Health Authority.

The PMO in a recent statement said that e-RUPI can be used for delivering services under schemes meant for providing drugs and nutritional support under Mother and Child welfare schemes, TB eradication programs, drugs and diagnostics under schemes like Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, fertilizer subsidies etc. It added that even the private sector can leverage these digital vouchers as part of their employee welfare and corporate social responsibility programs.

Speaking at the launch of the new platform, Modi said that the e-RUPI voucher is going to play a major role in strengthening the direct benefit transfer (DBT) scheme by the government. He further said e-RUPI will help in assuring targeted, transparent and leakage-free delivery for all.

Modi said that e-RUPI is a person as well as a purpose-specific payment platform. The prime minister further noted that technology is being seen as a tool to help the poor. He added that technology is bringing transparency in DBT. Speaking on the adoption of technology, Modi said that India is showing the world it is not behind in adopting new technology. Be it in terms of innovations or usage of technology in the delivery of services, India is capable of being a global leader.

He said that the work done in the field of digital infrastructure and digital transactions across the country during the past 6-7 years is being applauded by the world today. He added that the government is using direct benefit transfer to provide benefits of 300 schemes ranging from LPG to ration to pension directly to beneficiaries.

In addition to the government, he stated, if any organization wanted to help someone in their treatment, education or for any other work, then they would be able to give an eRUPI voucher instead of cash. This would ensure that the money given by him was used for the work for which the amount had been given.

The Prime Minister observed, “eRUPI will ensure that the money is being used for the purpose for which any help or any benefit is being provided’’. There was a time when technology was considered a domain of the rich people and there was no scope for technology in a poor country like India. “Today we are seeing technology as a tool to help the poor, a tool for their progress,’’ he pointed out.

Modi asserted how technology was bringing in transparency and integrity in transactions and creating new opportunities and making them available to the poor. For reaching today’s unique product, the foundation was prepared over the years by creating the JAM system, which connected mobile and Aadhaar. “Benefits of JAM took some time to be visible to people and we saw how we could help the needy during the lockdown period while other countries were struggling to help their people,’’ he stressed.

The development of digital transactions had empowered the poor and deprived, small businesses, farmers and tribal population. This could be felt in the record 300 crore UPI transactions in July, amounting to ₹6 lakh crore, he highlighted.

India was proving to the world that “we are second to none in adopting technology and adapting to it” through innovations and use of technology in service delivery. The country had the ability to give global leadership alongside major countries of the world, he added.

As Amazon Stocks Stumble, Jeff Bezos Loses Title As Richest Person On The Planet

Jeff Bezos, the multibillionaire has lost the title as the richest person on earth as his net worth actually tumbled — by $13.9 billion in one day, August 2nd.   Bezos’ net worth fell because Amazon’s AMZN, +0.12% stock price took a hit last week, sliding 7% after the company reported less-than-anticipated second-quarter growth.

The drop in Bezos’ net worth allowed for French tycoon Bernard Arnault to claim the No. 1 spot of the ultra-wealthy. Arnault heads the luxury goods conglomerate LVMH LVMH, +1.49%,  whose subsidiaries include Louis Vuitton, Sephora, Moët & Chandon and Tiffany & Co.

It might seem that a global pandemic and economic recession would set the luxury goods market back a bit, but Arnault remarkably grew his wealth by nearly $100 billion during the first year of the pandemic.

Arnault’s net worth sat at $195.8 billion as of Monday, while Bezos’ hovered at $192.6 billion.  Bezos made history in 2020 as the first person ever to be worth $200 billion, as Amazon enjoyed big gains from pandemic lockdowns.

The two billionaires had jockeyed for the top spot throughout May and June of this year, but the recent toss up put an end to Bezos’ 50-day streak at the top of the heap, according to Forbes.

In total, there are 2,755 billionaires worldwide, 86% of which are richer than they were a year ago for a combined $5 trillion increase in wealth in 2020.  Meanwhile, the median net worth for American families is $121,700.

US Economy Grows At 6.5% In 2nd Quarter

The US economy grew at a lower-than-anticipated annual rate of 6.5 per cent in the second quarter, marking the return to an above pre-pandemic level of overall economic activity, the Commerce Department reported. However, the 6.5 per cent gain was considerably less than the 8.4 per cent Dow Jones estimate, Xinhua news agency reported.

In terms of real gross domestic product — the broadest measure of economic activity — the economy has now recovered in that has grown bigger than its pre-pandemic size. Earlier this month, the National Bureau of Economic Research designated the pandemic recession as the shortest on record, lasting just two months: March and April 2020.

In the first quarter, real GDP increased by 6.3 per cent, 0.1 percentage point less than previously reported, according to the latest data issued by the Department on Thursday. The increase in real GDP in the second quarter reflected increases in personal consumption expenditures (PCE), non-residential fixed investment, exports, and state and local government spending that were partly offset by decreases in private inventory investment, residential fixed investment, and federal government spending, the Commerce Department report showed.

Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased. The GDP data was released a day after the Federal Reserve signaled that it was inching closer to tapering its asset purchases amid concerns over surging inflation and the rapid spread of the Covid-19 Delta variant.

In the latest update to its World Economic Outlook, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Tuesday projected the US economy would grow by 7.0 per cent this year, up 0.6 percentage point from its April projection.

The upward revision reflects the anticipated legislation of additional fiscal support in the second half of 2021 and improved health metrics. In 2022, the US economy is expected to grow by 4.9 per cent, according to the IMF.

 

The Brutal Truth About Bitcoin

Bitcoin, the original cryptocurrency, has been on a wild ride since its creation in 2009. Earlier this year, the price of one Bitcoin surged to over $60,000, an eightfold increase in 12 months. Then it fell to half that value in just a few weeks. Values of other cryptocurrencies such as Dogecoin have risen and fallen even more sharply, often based just on Elon Musk’s tweets. Even after the recent fall in their prices, the total market value of all cryptocurrencies now exceeds $1.5 trillion, a staggering amount for virtual objects that are nothing more than computer code. Are cryptocurrencies the wave of the future and should you be using and investing in them? And do the massive swings in their prices—nearly $1 trillion was wiped off their total value in May—portend trouble for the financial system?

Bitcoin was created (by a person or group that remains unidentified to this day) as a way to conduct transactions without the intervention of a trusted third party, such as a central bank or financial institution. Its emergence amid the global financial crisis, which shook trust in banks and even governments, was perfectly timed. Bitcoin enabled transactions using only digital identities, granting users some degree of anonymity. This made Bitcoin the preferred currency for illicit activities, including recent ransomware attacks. It powered the shadowy darknet of illegal online commerce much like PayPal helped the rise of eBay by making payments easier.

While Bitcoin’s roller-coaster prices garner attention, of far more consequence is the revolution in money and finance it has set off that will ultimately affect every one of us, for better and worse. As it grew in popularity, Bitcoin became cumbersome, slow, and expensive to use. It takes about 10 minutes to validate most transactions using the cryptocurrency and the transaction fee has been at a median of about $20 this year. Bitcoin’s unstable value has also made it an unviable medium of exchange. It is as though your $10 bill could buy you a beer on one day and a bottle of fine wine on another.

Moreover, it has become clear that Bitcoin does not offer true anonymity. The government’s success in tracking and retrieving part of the Bitcoin ransom paid to the hacking collective DarkSide in the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack has heightened doubts about the security and nontraceability of Bitcoin transactions. While Bitcoin has failed in its stated objectives, it has become a speculative investment. This is puzzling. It has no intrinsic value and is not backed by anything.

Bitcoin devotees will tell you that, like gold, its value comes from its scarcity—Bitcoin’s computer algorithm mandates a fixed cap of 21 million digital coins (nearly 19 million have been created so far). But scarcity by itself can hardly be a source of value. Bitcoin investors seem to be relying on the greater fool theory—all you need to profit from an investment is to find someone willing to buy the asset at an even higher price.

Despite their high valuations on paper, a collapse of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies is unlikely to rattle the financial system. Banks have mostly stayed on the sidelines. As with any speculative bubble, naive investors who come to the party late are at greatest risk of losses. The government should certainly caution retail investors that, much like in the GameStop saga, they act at their own peril. Securities that enable speculation on Bitcoin prices are already regulated, but there is not much more the government can or ought to do.

Bitcoin is not innocuous. Transactions are processed by “miners” using massive amounts of computing power in return for rewards in the form of Bitcoin. By some estimates, the Bitcoin network consumes as much energy as entire countries like Argentina and Norway, not to mention the mountains of electronic waste from specialized machines used for such mining operations that burn out rapidly.

Whatever Bitcoin’s eventual fate, its blockchain technology is truly ingenious and groundbreaking. Bitcoin has shown how programs running on networks of computers can be harnessed to securely conduct payments, within and between countries, without relying on avaricious financial institutions that charge high fees. For migrant workers sending remittances back to their home countries, for instance, such fees are a major burden. Technologies that make payments cheaper, quicker and easier to track would benefit consumers and businesses, facilitating both domestic and international commerce.

The technology is not without risks. Facebook plans to issue its own cryptocurrency called Diem intended to make digital payments easier. Unlike Bitcoin, Diem would be fully backed by reserves of U.S. dollars or other major currencies, ensuring stable value. But, as with its other ostensibly high-minded initiatives, Facebook can hardly be trusted to put the public’s welfare above its own. The prospect of multinational corporations one day issuing their own unbacked cryptocurrencies worldwide is deeply disquieting. Such currencies won’t threaten the U.S. dollar, but could wipe out the currencies of smaller and less developed countries.

Variants of Bitcoin’s technology are also making many financial products and services available to the masses at low cost, directly connecting savers and borrowers. These developments and the possibilities created by the new technologies have spurred central banks to consider issuing digital versions of their own currencies. ChinaJapan, and Sweden are already conducting trials of their digital currencies.

Ironically, rather than truly democratizing finance, some of these innovations may exacerbate inequality. Unequal financial literacy and digital access might result in sophisticated investors garnering the benefits while the less well off, dazzled by new technologies, take on risks they do not fully comprehend. Computer algorithms could worsen entrenched racial and other biases in credit scoring and financial decisions, rather than reducing them. The ubiquity of digital payments could also destroy any remaining vestiges of privacy in our day-to-day lives. While Bitcoin’s roller-coaster prices garner attention, of far more consequence is the revolution in money and finance it has set off that will ultimately affect every one of us, for better and worse.

Pandemic Leaves Indians Mired In Massive Medical Debts

NEW DELHI (AP) — As coronavirus cases ravaged India this spring, Anil Sharma visited his 24-year-old son Saurav at a private hospital in northwest New Delhi every day for more than two months. In May, as India’s new COVID-19 cases broke global records to reach 400,000 a day, Saurav was put on a ventilator.

The sight of the tube running into Saurav’s throat is seared in Sharma’s mind. “I had to stay strong when I was with him, but immediately after, I would break down as soon as I left the room,” he said. Saurav is home now, still weak and recovering. But the family’s joy is tempered by a mountain of debt that piled up while he was sick. Life has been tentatively returning to normal in India as new coronavirus cases have fallen. But millions are embroiled in a nightmare of huge piles of medical bills. Most Indians don’t have health insurance and costs for COVID-19 treatment have them drowning in debt. Sharma exhausted his savings on paying for an ambulance, tests, medicines and an ICU bed. Then he took out bank loans.

As the costs mounted, he borrowed from friends and relatives. Then, he turned to strangers, pleading online for help on Ketto, an Indian crowdfunding website. Overall, Sharma says he has paid over $50,000 in medical bills. The crowdfunding provided $28,000, but another $26,000 is borrowed money he needs to repay, a kind of debt he has never faced before. “He was struggling for his life and we were struggling to provide him an opportunity to survive,” he said, his voice thick with emotion. “I was a proud father — and now I have become a beggar.”

The pandemic has devastated India’s economy, bringing financial calamity to millions at the mercy of its chronically underfunded and fragmented healthcare system. Experts say such costs are bound to hinder an economic recovery. “What we have is a patchwork quilt of incomplete public insurance and a poor public health system. The pandemic has shown just how creaky and unsustainable these two things are,” said VivekDehejia, an economist who has studied public policy in India. Even before the pandemic, healthcare access in India was a problem. Indians pay about 63% of their medical expenses out-of-pocket. That’s typical of many poor countries with inadequate government services. Data on global personal medical costs from the pandemic are hard to come by, but in India and many other countries treatment for COVID is a huge added burden at a time when hundreds of millions of jobs have vanished.

In India, many jobs returned as cities opened up after a severe lockdown in March 2020, but economists worry about the loss of some 12 million salaried positions. Sharma’s job as a marketing professional was one of them. When he asked his son’s friends to set up the campaign on Ketto to raise funds, Sharma hadn’t seen a paycheck in 18 months. Between April and June this year, 40% of the 4,500 COVID-19 campaigns on the site were for hospitalization costs, the company said. The pandemic has driven 32 million Indians out of the middle class, defined as those earning $10 to $20 a day, according to a Pew Research Center study published in March. It estimated the crisis has increased the number of India’s poor — those with incomes of $2 or less a day — by 75 million.

“If you’re looking at what pushes people into debt or poverty, the top two sources often are out-of-pocket health expenditure and catastrophic costs of treatment,” said K Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India. In the northeastern city of Imphal, 2,400 kilometers (1,490 miles) away, Diana Khumanthem lost both her mother and sister to the virus in May. Treatment costs wiped out the family’s savings, and when the private hospital where her sister died wouldn’t release her body for last rites until a bill of about $5,000 was paid, she pawned the family’s gold jewelry to moneylenders.

When that wasn’t enough, asked her friends, relatives and her sister’s colleagues for help. She still owes some $1,000. A health insurance scheme launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2018 was intended to cover around 500 million of India’s 1.3 billion people and was a major step toward easing medical costs. But it doesn’t cover the primary care and outpatient costs that comprise most out-of-pocket expenses. So it hasn’t “effectively improved access to care and financial risk protection,” said a working paper by researchers at Duke University.

The program also has been hobbled by disparities in how various states implemented it, said ShawinVitsupakorn, one of the paper’s authors. Another paper, by the Duke Global Health Institute and the Public Health Foundation of India, found costs of ICU hospitalization for COVID-19 are equivalent to nearly 16 months of work for a typical Indian day laborer or seven to 10 months for salaried or self-employed workers.

Meager funding of healthcare, at just 1.6% of India’s GDP, is less, proportionately, than what Laos or Ethiopia spends. At the outbreak’s peak in May, hospitals everywhere were overrun, but public facilities lacked the resources to handle the floods of patients coming in. “The result is a suffering public health system, where the provision of care is often poor, prompting many to flock to private hospitals,” said Dehejia.

A public hospital treated Khumanthem’s mother, but her sister Ranjita was admitted to a private one that cost $1,300 per day. Ranjita was the family’s only earner after Khumanthem left her nursing job last year to return home during the first wave of the virus. She’s now hunting for work while looking after her father and her sister’s 3-year-old son. At her home in Imphal, Khumanthem grieved for her mother by remembering her favorite food — chagempomba, a type of gruel made with vegetables, rice and soybeans. Every few minutes, she looked toward the front gate.

“This is usually the time Ranjita would return home from work,” she said. “I still keep thinking she could walk through the gate any moment now.” Back in New Delhi, Sharma sighed in relief as an ambulance brought his son home from the hospital last week. Saurav needs physiotherapy to build up his weakened muscles, a daily nurse and a long list of medications. It may be weeks before he will be able to stand on his own, and months before the ambitious lawyer who graduated among the top of his class will be able to go to court again.  The costs will continue. “Our first priority was to save him,” Sharma said. “Now we will need to figure out the rest.”

NRI Appointed As Vice-Chairman Of Abu Dhabi Chamber Of Commerce

The crown prince of Abu Dhabi & deputy supreme commander of the UAE Armed Forces, Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan appointed Indian-origin businessman Yusuffali MA as the vice-chairman of Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ADCCI). The 65-year-old businessman is the only Indian among the 29-member board. Yusuffali is the chairman and managing director of Lulu Group International,  a chain of hypermarkets and retail companies which is headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE. It was founded in 2000 by Yusuffali in Thrissur district of India’s Kerala.

This is indeed a very proud and emotional moment for me. I am very happy to receive Abu Dhabi’s highest civilian award from the blessed hands of HH Sheikh @MohamedBinZayed, Crown Prince & Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. (1/3) pic.twitter.com/G2CmupCDfn Sheikh Mohamed issued a resolution to form a new board of directors for ADCCI, chaired by Abdullah Mohamed Al Mazrouei and prominent Indian businessman Yusuffali MA as the vice-chairman.

ADCCI is the apex government body of all businesses established in Abu Dhabi and functions as a bridge between the government and the business sector. The mission of this governing body is to contribute towards developing and organize the commercial and trade activities in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, increase the competitiveness capabilities of the companies of the private sector, and expand their opportunities through providing high world-class services which would contribute to realizing sustainable development in the Emirate.

“It is truly a very humbling and proud moment in my life. My sincere gratitude to the visionary leadership of this great country and I will strive to do my best towards justifying the great responsibility entrusted upon me. Apart from working for the growth of Abu Dhabi economy and the larger business community, I will sincerely work towards further boosting the Indo-UAE trade relations”, news reports quoted him as saying. Yusuffali arrived in Abu Dhabi 47 years ago and in April 2021, Sheikh Mohamed honored Yusuffali with ‘Abu Dhabi Awards 2021’, the highest civilian honor for his almost five-decade-long contributions in the fields of economic development and philanthropy.

In Retaliation For Critical Coverage, Modi Government Raids Top Indian Media

Indian tax authorities on Thursday, July 21, 2021,  raided one of the country’s most prominent newspapers in what journalists and the political opposition denounced as retaliation for the outlet’s hard-nosed coverage of the government’s pandemic response. The DainikBhaskar Group, whose Hindi-language broadsheet boasts a combined circulation of more than 4 million, was raided simultaneously in at least four locations, including at its headquarters in Madhya Pradesh state.

Surabhi Ahluwalia, a spokeswoman for the tax authority, said searches were on at multiple locations across the country linked to the group but declined to share details about the case. She said the department usually undertakes searches in matters of tax evasion. But the justification of tax evasion was panned by government critics, who pointed out that the Bhaksar has been persistently needling India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with its coverage, including as recently as this week.

The Press Club of India said in a statement that it “deplores such acts of intimidation by the government through enforcement agencies to deter the independent media.” Under the administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who rose to power in 2014, several critical media outlets have found themselves in tax investigators’ cross-hairs, raising fears about the health of the independent press in the world’s largest democracy. Reporters without Borders, the advocacy group, recently placed India at 142nd place in its press freedom rankings, roughly on par with Myanmar and Mexico.

Om Gaur, the Bhaskar’s national editor, said his staff’s mobile devices were seized during the raids as a “tactic to harass journalists.” “The raid is outcome of our aggressive reporting, especially during the second wave of pandemic in April,” Gaur said by telephone. “Unlike some other media we reported how people were dying for lack of oxygen and hospital beds.” The tax investigation “is not going to change anything for us,” he added. “We will keep doing good journalism.”

As covid-19 roiled India this spring, the Bhaskar splashed photos of funeral pyres on its front pages, reported on corpses floating in the Ganges river and repeatedly challenged the government’s narrative about the disaster and its official death statistics. Gaur, the editor, contributed an op-ed in the New York Times that made waves in his home country. The paper has sometimes taken a less-than-orthodox approach to holding government accountable: as citizens in the state of Gujarat struggled to procure covid-19 medication in April, the paper published the phone number of the BJP’s state president in a massive front-page headline.

This week, after The Washington Post and its media partners disclosed the Indian government’s use of the NSO Group’s Pegasus phone hacking program against opposition figures, activists and journalists, the DainikBhaksar was one of the few Hindi-language papers that featured the story prominently. It also followed up with an article recapping what it said was Modi’s record of snooping on political rivals going back 15 years, when he served as chief minister in Gujarat. The article was quickly retracted.

On Thursday, opposition figures rebuked the government. “Income Tax raid on DainikBhaskar newspaper & Bharat Samachar news channel is a brazen attempt to suppress the voice of media,” Ashok Gehlot, the chief minister of Rajasthan state and a member of the Congress Party, said in a tweet. “Modi government cannot tolerate even an iota of its criticism.” India’s free-wheeling press was stunned in 2017 when the government launched an investigation into New Delhi Television, which was known for its independent streak. The top investigative agency raided NDTV’s offices and the homes of its founders, the Roy family, over suspected financial malfeasance. The channel called it a “blatant political attack on the freedom of the press.” The company has also faced a litany of probes from various agencies over alleged tax violations and money laundering.

In 2019, NDTV protested again when the Roys were barred from boarding an international flight out of Mumbai. The most recent raids on a media outlet came in February, when authorities investigated NewsClick, a left-leaning digital outlet, over its foreign remittances from a businessman with alleged links to China’s Communist party. The outlet denied the accusations.

Job Advertisement

 

Consulate General of India, Atlanta (USA)                

Required:
(1) Clerk
(1) Marketing Assistant
(1) Messenger
                

Consulate General of India (CGI), Atlanta requires the services of qualified young persons to fill up the following posts at the Consulate.

For Clerk: 

Required Skills:

  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university;
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills in English ;
  • Proficiency with MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook, etc;
  • Dependable, organized, problem-solver;
  • Great Typing skills;
  • Keenness to learn and willingness to work hard.

Experience: 1-2 years of similar experience in an administrative role

For Marketing Assistant:

Required Skills:

  • A University Degree or equivalent qualification, preferably in Business & Marketing. Masters preferred;
  • Knowledge of International Trade Issues, including Intellectual Property Rights;
  • Adequate experience in the interdisciplinary analysis of trade and commerce vis-à-vis international political developments;
  • Proficiency in English language, communication skills, teamwork, Computer Operation – including Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.
  • Knowledge of US Government functioning, rules & regulations, and Policies;
  • Organizational skills to plan promotional events;
  • Keenness to learn and willingness to work hard.

Experience: 1-2 years of similar experience in Marketing Assistant Role

For Messenger:

Required Skills:

  • A High School degree is a must and, a bachelor’s degree is preferred;
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills ;
  • Knowledge of Computer Skills, if any, preferred. (applicant may have to perform the clerical job as and when required);
  • Dependable, organized, problem-solver;
  • Keenness to learn and willingness to work hard.

Experience: 1-2 years of similar experience.

Head of Chancery

Consulate General of India, Atlanta

5549 Glenridge Drive

Atlanta GA 30342

Email: [email protected] and [email protected]

Please Note: Position(s) are only for applicants who are either US citizens or permanent residents. Deadline of Submission: 10/07/2021

Monthly Child Tax Credit Payments Begin

The Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Department announced today that millions of American families have started receiving monthly Child Tax Credit payments as direct deposits begin posting in bank accounts and checks arrive in mailboxes. This first batch of advance monthly payments worth roughly $15 billion reached about 35 million families today across the country. About 86% were sent by direct deposit.

The payments will continue each month. The IRS urged people who normally aren’t required to file a tax return to explore the tools available on IRS.gov. These tools can help determine eligibility for the advance Child Tax Credit or help people file a simplified tax return to sign up for these payments as well as Economic Impact Payments, and other credits you may be eligible to receive.

Under the American Rescue Plan, each payment is up to $300 per month for each child under age 6 and up to $250 per month for each child ages 6 through 17. Normally, anyone who receives a payment this month will also receive a payment each month for the rest of 2021 unless they unenroll. Besides the July 15 payment, payment dates are: Aug. 13, Sept. 15, Oct. 15, Nov. 15 and Dec. 15.

Here are further details on these payments:

  • Families will see the direct deposit payments in their accounts starting today, July 15. For those receiving payment by paper check, they should remember to take into consideration the time it takes to receive it by mail.
  • Payments went to eligible families who filed 2019 or 2020 income tax returns.
  • Tax returns processed by June 28 are reflected in these payments. This includes people who don’t typically file a return, but during 2020 successfully registered for Economic Impact Payments using the IRS Non-Filers tool or in 2021 successfully used the Non-filer Sign-up Tool for Advance CTC, also on IRS.gov.
  • Payments are automatic. Aside from filing a tax return, including a simplified return from the Non-Filer Sign-Up tool, families don’t have to do anything if they are eligible to receive monthly payments.

Additional information is available on a special Advance Child Tax Credit 2021 page, designed to provide the most up-to-date information about the credit and the advance payments.

Financial Literacy Movement Launched By Sal Khan & Others

A group of business, sports, entertainment and nonprofit leaders, including Khan Academy’s Indian American founder and chief executive officer Sal Khan, has banded together to launch the “Financial Literacy for All” initiative. The initiative, which launched June 21, will support embedding financial literacy into American culture. This 10-year commitment will reach millions of youth and working adults enabling them to achieve greater financial success for themselves and their families, according to a news release.

In addition to Khan, the group includes Doug McMillon, CEO of Walmart; Bob Chapek, CEO of The Walt Disney Company; Brian Moynihan, chairman and CEO of Bank of America; Rosalind Brewer, CEO of Walgreens; Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Air Lines; Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL; Adam Silver, commissioner of the NBA; Tony Ressler, executive chair of Ares Management and principal owner of the Atlanta Hawks; and John Hope Bryant, chair and CEO of Operation HOPE. McMillon and Bryant will serve as co-chairs of “Financial Literacy for All,” with expectation that the initiative will expand as additional organizations sign on.

“I believe we are in a moment in history, where the public and private sector can join together to help every American reach their potential and fully participate in the greatest economy on earth,” said Bryant. “With this initiative, we are not just seeking to change America’s relationship with their finances, but to change their mindset on what they can accomplish.” “Financial well-being begins with good pay and benefits, but it also includes real opportunity for career growth and access to tools and resources that help manage daily financial needs, build greater financial resiliency and plan for retirement.” added McMillon. “We are inspired by Operation Hope’s vision and look forward to collaborating with other major employers to discover new and better ways to support and engage our associates along their individual financial well-being journey.”

Underscoring the need for financial literacy, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s current Investor Education Foundation survey found that only one-third of U.S. residents surveyed could answer basic questions about interest rates, financial risk and mortgage rates—down by nearly one-quarter from 2009, according to the release. In addition, the cost of financial illiteracy to U.S. citizens is estimated to be $415 billion for 2020, according to a recent study by National Financial Educators Council.

Given the importance and societal impact of financial literacy and with a goal to expand people’s access to opportunities, these organizations are acting now—leveraging their collective innovative and creative expertise as well as their daily interaction with millions of employees, clients, customers and suppliers to spur a national movement of financial capability, it said. This alignment of vision and mission is supported by making financial literacy easier to understand and generating public awareness of its importance by directly connecting with working adults; and providing targeted outreach to middle and high school students as well as those attending community college and four-year universities with innovative outreach and existing “Best Practices.”

Specific steps include promotion of a recently launched educational video series from Walmart that will reach more than a million of its associates; all 80,000 Delta people in the U.S. will have access to in-person and/or virtual Operation HOPE coaches and curriculum starting July 12; and Bank of America will expand access to its award-winning Better Money Habits platform, the release noted.

June 21st Is Child Tax Credit Awareness Day

The White House has designated June 21 as Child Tax Credit Awareness Day to ensure eligible families know about the American Rescue Plan’s expansion of the child tax credit and know how to access the benefit. The American Rescue Plan signed in March as part of the stimulus relief bill includes a historic temporary expansion of the child tax credit for 2021 that will offer $3,000 for each child age six to 17 and $3,600 per child under six to eligible families. The benefit will be disbursed in two installments. The first half, $1,500 or $1,800 per child, will be paid in monthly payments of $250 or $300 starting July 15 and continuing through December. You’ll claim the other half on next year’s tax return.

You normally must have earned income to claim the child tax credit. For this year, you’re entitled to the credit even if you were not employed and had no earned income. And whereas the usual $2,000 credit is only refundable up to $1,2000, the entire expanded credit is refundable. What “fully refundable” means is that if your total federal income tax liability is less than the credit amount, you receive the difference back as a refund. For example, if your total tax liability is $0 and your credit is $3,600, you’ll receive $3,600 back. If your tax liability is $2,000 and your credit is $3,000, you’ll receive $1,000 back. The income threshold to receive the full credit is $75,000 for a single filer.

The IRS estimates that almost 90% of children are eligible to begin receiving monthly payments without any further action required, the National Association of Counties reported. This means if you filed your 2020 or 2019 taxes, you will not need to do anything further to begin receiving your payments starting July 15. Otherwise, you must file for the credit in order to receive it.

The IRS has set up two portals where you can input your information in order to ensure you’re covered. If you have not filed or are a non-filer in general, you can use the IRS Non-Filer Portal Tool located on the IRS website. If you’ve filed a tax return but have had a change in income or marital status or you’ve had a baby, you’ll use the Child Tax Credit Update Portal, which the IRS will make available before the monthly payments begin.

About 27 million children qualify for this direct income support, including many whose families have no earned income and thus would not be eligible for the child tax credit under the normal rules. Estimates suggest that the expansion could lift nearly 5 million children out of poverty in 2021, according to the National Association of Counties. This would represent an almost 50% reduction in the child poverty rate.

Dr. Kiran Patel Invests In Mumbai-Based EV Charging Startup

An eminent Indian-American cardiologist and philanthropist, has raised more than $15mn in Series A funding for a Mumbai-based electric vehicle charging solutions company, Magenta EV Solutions. Besides being a cardiologist, Dr. Kiran Patel is a billionaire and a serial entrepreneur.

“My wife and I have always believed in building a legacy by partnering with companies who are passionate in making this planet better for the next generation. I met the Magenta team over lunch when I was in India and within minutes into the discussion, I felt I found a team who are as passionate as I am, to bring about a difference,” Dr. Patel said.

Founded by Maxson Lewis and Darryl Dias, Magenta was Incorporated in 2017, and in the last three years, it has established itself as a key player in the EV charging market under the ChargeGrid brand. The company aims to have a share of 30% in the Indian EV charging market, which it estimates to be 3000 GW.hr by 2030.Seed funded by HPCL and incubated by Shell, ChargeGrid is also backed by the Microsoft Startup Program to further boost its advanced technology platform. At present, Magenta has operations in more than 10 cities.

“With Dr. Kiran Patel coming aboard, Magenta would be exposed to global markets, backed by financial and strategical management bandwidth. Dr. Patel has been investing and supporting start-ups and early-stage businesses in India and across the globe and mentor them through their scale-up journey,” said the company in a statement. It further added that Pantomath Capital Advisors Private Limited is the sole investment banker to Magenta for the transaction.In 2018, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd invested in Magenta Power, as it plans to get into the electric vehicle charging business in the future.

“Magenta provides end-to-end hardware, software, installation, operations and maintenance of electric vehicle charging solutions. Magenta will expand its product line with new streetlamp integrated EV charger, one of many new innovative products currently under development,” said the company in the above-mentioned statement.Lack of charging stations has been one of the biggest impediments for adoption of electric mobility in the country and startups like Magenta are playing a crucial role in developing low-cost chargers which can be deployed in different parts of the country.

The Indian government in collaboration with manufacturers of electric vehicles and charging devices has been developing a low-cost charging device for electric two and three-wheelers which is expected to help push the adoption of such vehicles in the coming years.The Narendra Modi government has been urging vehicle manufacturers to develop and manufacture electric vehicles to reduce vehicular emissions and curb oil imports. The union government has also been incentivizing the purchase of such zero-emission vehicles and setting up of changing devices through the second phase of the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing Electric and Hybrid vehicle (FAME) scheme.

Dr. Patel has generously contributed his fortune for several noble causes in India, his country of origin, the United States, his adopted country, and Zambia, the country of his birth. Dr. Patel is also the Chairman and President of Optimum Healthcare, Inc.All philanthropic campaigns, contributions and projects have resulted from his passion for health, education and charity. That’s why he has also commissioned Drs. Kiran and Pallavi Global University, a 120-acre institute under construction in India.Sharing his own experiences of investing in the state of Gujarat and in the United States, Dr. Patel, said, with the state requiring more trained personnel to support the growing needs, he is willing to establish a Medical College in Rajasthan.

Dr. Patel, a very soft spoken physician of Indian origin, said the projects combine his passions for health education and charity. In his first venture in running a university, he hopes to fulfill a need for competent doctors in the area while also educating generations of physicians who can serve in underprivileged areas across the globe.Dr. Patel had purchased the former Clearwater Christian College property with a goal of developing an osteopathic medical school in his home-state, Florida. The Indian American physician closed on the $12 million purchase of the 25-acre campus overlooking Old Tampa Bay at the west end of the Courtney Campbell Causeway.

India Denies State-Owned Banks Will Withdraw Funds From Foreign Currency Accounts

The Indian government has denied reports that it has asked state-owned banks to withdraw funds from foreign currency accounts abroad in anticipation of their potential seizure with regard to the Cairn legal dispute, terming such information as “false and baseless”.

“Condemning all such source-based reports as false, the Government of India said that these are totally incorrect reports which were not based on true facts. Certain vested parties appear to have orchestrated such misleading reporting, which often relies upon unnamed sources and presents a lopsided picture of factual and legal developments in the case,” said an official statement.

It said that the India is “vigorously” defending its case in this legal dispute, and has filed an application on March 22 to set aside the “highly flawed” December 2020 international arbitral award in The Hague Court of Appeal.“The government has raised several arguments that warrant setting aside the award. This proceeding is pending,” the government said, adding that it is committed to pursuing all legal avenues to defend its case in this dispute worldwide.

It was also stated that the CEO and the representatives of Cairns have approached the government for discussions to resolve the matter. “Constructive discussions have been held and the Government remains open for an amicable solution to the dispute within the country’s legal framework,” the Finance Ministry statement said. (IANS)

A Crypto Crash Wiped Out $1 Trillion This Week

Wild, stomach-churning moments are part of the experience when you buy a ticket to the crypto circus. But the past week’s volatility was enough to make some of the crypto faithful wonder whether they’ve been bamboozled.

On Wednesday, a broad crypto crash wiped out about $1 trillion in market value — a staggering drop from $2.5 trillion just a week ago. Bitcoin, which accounts for more than 40% of the global crypto market, nosedived 30% to $30,000 on Wednesday, its lowest point since January.By Friday, bitcoin had rebounded slightly, to around $37,000 — bruised by continued regulatory concerns, and far off its all time high above $64,000 that it hit a month ago.

Volatility is baked into the nascent cryptocurrency market, but the digital assets’ explosive growth in the past year has attracted hordes of amateur and professional investors looking for a quick profit. Many of them ride an upswing and get out, or panic sell when things turn sour, exacerbating gains or losses.

What happened?

The crypto market had been especially shaky for about a week before the crash on Wednesday.

On May 12, bitcoin fell 12% after Elon Musk walked back Tesla’s commitment to accept bitcoin as payment, citing concerns over the crytocurrency’s massive carbon footprint. Musk added to investor anxiety last weekend with a pair of seemingly contradictory tweets about bitcoin that left investors scratching their heads.

Then the big crash came Wednesday, after Chinese officials signaled a crackdown on crypto use in the country. The central bank issued a warning to Chinese financial institutions and businesses not to accept digital currencies as payment or offer services using them.The threat of increased regulation triggered a panic, and bitcoin plunged before rebounding slightly and leveling off. Other cryptocurrencies also tanked: Ethereum fell more than 40%, while dogecoin and binance lost around 30%.

By Thursday, bitcoin had recouped some losses and was back above $41,000. But a Friday statement from Chinese officials reiterating the need to crack down on cryptos beat bitcoin back down. It was trading around $37,000 on Friday afternoon. Other cryptos were also in the red.

Regulatory concerns

China has long had limits around crypto trading within its borders. Officials declared in 2013 that bitcoin was not a real currency and banned financial and payment institutions from using it. Individuals can hold or trade cryptocurrencies, but major exchanges in mainland China have been shut down.

On the surface, this week’s statements simply underscored China’s suspicion of cryptocurrencies generally. But they sent a clear signal that Beijing is not loosening its grip on the market anytime soon. Authorities are also launching a state-backed digital yuan that would keep money flows under strict oversight.

And it’s not just China. On Thursday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned about potential risks cryptocurrencies pose to the financial system. Powell also said the central bank would publish a paper this summer that will explore the implications of the US government developing a digital currency of its own.

A potential central bank digital currency “could serve as a complement to, and not a replacement of, cash and current private-sector digital forms of the dollar, such as deposits at commercial banks,” Powell said. The Treasury Department is also turning its attention to the crypto space. On Thursday officials said any transfer of digital currency valued at $10,000 or more must be reported to the Internal Revenue Service.

“Cryptocurrency already poses a significant detection problem by facilitating illegal activity broadly including tax evasion,” the Treasury said in a statement. “Despite constituting a relatively small portion of business income today, cryptocurrency transactions are likely to rise in importance in the next decade, especially in the presence of a broad-based financial account reporting regime.”

Bitcoin had been up nearly 6% Thursday but pared its gains after the statements from US officials, according to Bloomberg.

The future of cryptos

The week’s wild swings were a test for cryptocurrency fans. True believers tend to take the long view: At the start of 2020, bitcoin was trading around $7,000 a coin, which means it’s still up more than 400% in that time, even after crashing this week.

“We all tend to focus on day-by-day, week-by-week,” said William Quigley, managing director at crypto-focused investment fund on Wednesday. “But that’s not how most people buy cryptocurrencies, or even stocks.

Is it a bubble? Probably, according to ethereum co-creator VitalikButerin. In an interview with CNN Business this week, Buterin said he wasn’t surprised by the crash, because he’s seen it all before.

“We’ve had at least three of these big crypto bubbles so far,” he said. “And often enough, the reason the bubbles end up stopping is because some event happens that just makes it clear that the technology isn’t there yet.” (Courtesy: CNN Business)

Colonial Pipeline Paid Hackers $5M In Ransom

Colonial, a major US fuel pipeline has reportedly paid cyber-criminal gang DarkSide nearly $5m (£3.6m) in ransom, following a cyber-attack.Colonial Pipeline suffered a ransomware cyber-attack over the weekend and took its service down for five days, causing supplies to tighten across the US.CNN, the New York Times, Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal all reported a ransom was paid, citing sources. Colonial said last week that it would not comment on the issue. Japanese consumer tech giant Toshiba also reported its European division in France had been hit by the same cyber-criminal gang.

Following the cyber-attack, Colonial announced it would resume operations on Wednesday evening, but warned that it could take several days for the delivery supply chain to return to normal.The 5,500-mile (8,900km) pipeline usually carries 2.5 million barrels a day on the East Coast. The closure saw supplies of diesel, petrol and jet fuel tighten across the US, with prices rising, an emergency waiver passed on Monday and a number of states declaring an emergency.

The average price per gallon hit $3.008 (£2.14) – the highest level seen since October 2014, according to the Automobile Association of America.US President Joe Biden reassured motorists that fuel supplies should start returning to normal this weekend, even as more filling stations ran out of gasoline across the Southeast. According to reports, Colonial had said initially it would not be paying the ransom demanded by the hackers.

Toshiba Tec France Imaging System, which is part of Toshiba, said it was hit by a similar cyber-attack by DarkSide on May 4th. However, the firm emphasized that no leaks of data had been detected and that only a minimal amount of work data was lost during the event.

It said it had put protective measures in place immediately after the attack.In light of a sharp increase in ransomware cyber-attacks during the pandemic, on Thursday President Biden signed an executive order to improve US cyber-defences. Earlier in the week, he said that although there was no evidence that the Kremlin was involved, there was evidence to suggest that the DarkSide gang of hackers was based in Russia.

The news that Colonial Pipeline paid these criminals is a major blow to President Biden. Only this week he signed a long-awaited executive order to beef up federal cyber-security and, in turn, make the US more secure from future attacks. These efforts have, in the view of some in the cyber-security world, been completely undermined.How can the Biden administration encourage corporations to spend millions securing their computer networks from attack when they’ve just witnessed Colonial, under the glare of the public eye, cave in to criminal demands and pay their way out of trouble?

The news will swell the ranks of those in the security world who want ransomware payments banned. But with companies, jobs and sometimes lives put at risk when ransomware hits, it is a tough call for policymakers.The potential silver-lining in this case comes from reports that even after Colonial paid the hackers, the criminals were so slow to help the company that pipeline staff got to work on recovery themselves.

The DarkSide hacker crew can no longer claim that they can restore victims services quickly and this may make others question whether or not to give in to their demands.’Our goal is to make money’

Cyber-security firms told the BBC that DarkSide operates by infiltrating an organisation’s computer network and stealing sensitive data.Typically, a day later the hackers will make themselves known, announcing that they have encrypted all the data in the network and are prepared to leak it onto the internet and delete it, if they are not paid a ransom by a certain deadline.

DarkSide operates by making the software used to execute this attack and then training affiliates to use it, who then give the gang a cut of the ransoms they take.Following concerns the Colonial cyber-attack was caused by nation-state hackers with a political motive, DarkSide posted on its website: “Our goal is to make money and not creating problems for society.”

The group also indicated it had not been aware that Colonial was being targeted by one of its affiliates and intended to “introduce moderation and check each company” its partners want to encrypt, “to avoid social consequences in the future”.On Friday, Reuters reported that DarkSide’s website on the dark web was no longer accessible.Colonial Pipeline’s website also continues to be offline.

Elon Musk Says, Tesla Will Not Accept Bitcoin For Transactions

Tesla has suspended customers’ use of bitcoin to purchase its vehicles, Tesla’s billionaire CEO said last week, citing concerns about the use of fossil fuel for bitcoin mining.Elon Musk said the company had suspended use of bitcoin for purchase of its electric vehicles, citing fears about the world’s biggest cryptocurrency’s “rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels”.

The company started accepting bitcoin in March. Musk tweeted that they plan to start using it again “as soon as mining transitions to more sustainable energy”. Following the tweet, bitcoin fell nearly 17% – its lowest point since the beginning of March. “We are also looking at other cryptocurrencies that use <1% of bitcoin’s energy/transaction,” Musk said.

How does bitcoin use fossil fuels? Bitcoin mining – the process by which the currency is created using high powered computers that compete to solve complex mathematical puzzles – is powered by electricity generated by fossil fuels, especially coal. At current rates, it is using approximately the equivalent amount of energy each year as the Netherlands did in 2019.

At current rates, such bitcoin “mining” devours about the same amount of energy annually as the Netherlands did in 2019, the latest available data from the University of Cambridge and the International Energy Agency shows.

Edward Moya, a senior market analyst at currency trading firm OANDA, said that Musk was getting ahead of investors focused on sustainability.

“The environmental impact from mining bitcoins was one of the biggest risks for the entire crypto market,” Moya said. “Over the past couple of months, everyone disregarded news that bitcoin uses more electricity than Argentina and Norway.”

Chris Weston, head of research at broker Pepperstone in Melbourne, said Musk’s reaction was a blow to bitcoin but an acknowledgement of the currency’s carbon footprint. “Tesla has got an image of being environmentally friendly and bitcoin clearly is the opposite of that,” Weston said.

Bitcoin And Crypto Markets Crash

Bitcoin (BTC-USD) is experiencing a massive sell-off, shedding almost 15% in the last 24 hours — the biggest intraday drop since February.  The drop appears to coincide with reports that the US Treasury is planning to tackle financial institutions for money laundering carried out through digital assets.

Data website CoinMarketCap cited a blackout in China’s Xinjiang region for the fall, which allegedly powers much of Bitcoin mining — the process by which new bitcoins are entered into circulation.

On Sunday, the flagship crypto shed nearly $8,000 and was trading 12% lower at $54,900 around 12PM in London, down from a day high of $61,293.  It hit a day-low of $53,302 in the early hours of Sunday. Currently it has regained some lost ground, down 9% to $55,409 around 6PM.

Bitcoin’s flash crash saw a new record in liquidations, resulting in more than one million positions being wiped off the books. This meant that $10bn in positions were liquidated, according to Bybt.

Other cryptocurrencies have also plummeted.  Ethereum (ETH-USD) the second biggest cryptocurrency in circulation, fell 17% before paring losses. It is currently down 13% to $2,132. Litecoin (LTC-USD) also declined, down 24% to $252.

It comes days after bitcoin approached $65,000 ahead of the debut listing of cryptocurrency trading platform Coinbase on Wednesday. Coinbase is the first crypto firm to list on the Nasdaq (^IXIC).

In late February, bitcoin saw a retreat to as low as $43,000 amid uncertainty in the traditional markets over stimulus expectations and their positive effects on US bond yields.

Bitcoin prices have been up and down over the last few months as governments and regulators hone in on the sector amid rising demand.

On Friday, bitcoin plunged 4% after the Central Bank of Turkey banned the use of cryptocurrencies and other digital assets for payments.

Turkey’s central bank said the ban was motivated by a lack of “central authority regulation” and “supervision mechanisms” for cryptocurrencies and other similar digital assets.

The Bitcoin Lion Wakes Up!

Bitcoin has officially reached an all-time high of $59K. Its market capitalization is now over a trillion dollars. The fact is that those of us who know nothing about cryptocurrencies are getting excited when we learn that thousands have been harvested in recent days.

If you want to move into an investment, it is cheaper and easier than trading stocks and options.

FSix years ago, when I first analyzed the cryptocurrency Bitcoin and recommended it to some, many people said it was a scam, and I thought it was crazy. It then had a market capitalization of just over $ 6 billion. This year, Bitcoin became the first crypto to earn a trillion dollars.

Over the past few years, the lucky few have had the opportunity to book high gains of up to 16,377% – a rare history of those who were able to turn $ 1,000 into $ 164,770.

As mentioned above, at about $ 59,000 each, Bitcoin is still a clever strategy to double your money to 10x or 20x. Over time, as more and more people try their luck, the event may turn out to be a catastrophe.

Gold has always been. The era of what was once considered a safe haven seems to be coming to an end.

Hedging is a good idea, but no one wants to do it with gold that has fallen into a bear market pattern. When the pandemic hit the United States in March 2020, gold prices fell again after a slight rise. Then the yellow metal is not doing its job now.

Last year, the United States spent $ 5.3 trillion on coronavirus relief, more than $ 27% of our annual GDP, but that did not significantly affect the price of gold.

The situation in the U.S. stock market has changed significantly this week. However, few investors may have noticed these signs. After a month of market fluctuations, the S&P and Dow jumped simultaneously, hitting all-time highs. For the first time in history, the Dow jumped to 33,000

Most people are thankful for Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion U.S. rescue plan, which will soon create a massive surge in the economy and pocket many Americans in the crowd.

Now, if you are a gold digger, many other things are hard to accept. It’s even more challenging for you to buy that Bitcoin has taken over the job of gold.

This is because gold has a history of thousands of years, while bitcoin has existed for a decade.

People have used horses for thousands of years. Within a decade, cars had eliminated horses, as the saying goes!

Then crypto has become your question mark!

If you have not yet taken your first step in this burgeoning market, there is no better time to do it. One reason for this is that as of January 2021, there are more than 4,000 cryptocurrencies in existence. Many are worthless. In the name of this, brokers and advisers are flooding the internet. Without a phone number or an office to ask questions about, or a certificate to show off, this cryptocurrency system, which continues to buy and sell only on digital platforms worldwide, has become a headache for economists and a secret money-making platform for intelligent greed.

For example, Bitcoin was the story of the highest investment in 2013 and 2014.

They have been at the forefront of developing currency exchanges and investment funds, driving Bitcoin into the headlines. At the time, Bitcoin was trading at $ 90. Over the next five months, Bitcoin rose 1,192 percent to $ 1,163. People across the country made millions of dollars. Some were even millions of banks. As a matter of fact!

Bitcoin’s popularity has grown due to its resistance to inflation, which is expected to become a more widely used payment method. But skeptics argue that its wild price rise could keep many companies away.

The market was buoyed when the electric car maker’s investment raised Bitcoin to a record high of $ 58,332.36. Still, the currency fell slightly after billionaire CEO Elon Musk expressed some skepticism on Twitter.

Many tons of cryptocurrencies are benefiting from this massive cash flow. Although many share the same DNA as Bitcoin, their total is very small.

As the world looks back on our time’s most revolutionary technological advances, two of the most important of these cryptocurrencies should be seen as examples.

  1. ETHEREUM (ETH)

As of March 2020, the ETH is trading at $ 130.

Today, a single shot costs more than $ 1,825. That’s about ten times more in a year. If you invested in ETH five years ago, a 1,000 investment would be worth more than $ 800,000. This is a very rare and unusual 80,000% gain.

  1. LITECOIN (LTC)

LTC was the first crypto to launch with Bitcoin in 2011. Today, a litecoin costs $ 201.11. Five years ago? It was trading below $ 5 that day. If you had bought $ 1,000 worth of Litecoin in 2016, you would have $ 34,200 in your pocket today.

There is no such thing as intellect when you think of yourself, and you have to test whether it exists today.

As Bitcoin soared from close to $ 5,000 last March and soared to $ 60,000 on March 13th, you may feel that something is missing now.

But it would be best if you were 100% focused on allowing your stock portfolio winners to rise higher and continue to know how to protect those gains when the market finally turns around.

The price of the world’s largest digital currency rose 8 percent to $ 59,274.13 a day earlier. That brings the total value to $ 1.15 trillion. (Coindesk Data Show).

Prices began to rise following further indications that institutional investors and large corporations were coming to cryptocurrency.

For example, Bitcoin-based investment firm NYVDG announced on Monday that it had raised $ 200 million from a group of investors, including Wall Street Titans Morgan Stanley, New York Life, billionaire financier George Soros, and Soros Fund Management.

Insurers on the company’s platform now have exposure to bitcoin worth over a billion dollars, which can be “an example of accelerating institutional bitcoin adoption”. The company’s announcement comes a month after Tesla revealed it had bought $ 1.5 billion worth of bitcoin, following in the footsteps of smaller companies such as Microstrategy and Jack Dorsey’s Square.

It remains at full strength this year as well.

The latest US stimulus package worth $ 1.9 trillion has now brought more money to market. The arrival of this new paper money reduces the value of the already popular dollar. This happens naturally. If the dollar had depreciated 13% of purchasing power against foreign currencies last year – it would have continued and would have had accurate results. This means that your purchasing power is declining rapidly. This means that following the same policy is a big mistake. Winners are said to be added quickly.

These are just some of the goal-setting shareware that you can use. No strategy is perfect. Any investment always carries the risk of loss. Some fail along the way.

But the coming months and years are likely to be more exciting and rewarding than anything we’ve seen before. There can be no doubt that peer-to-peer transactions and digital currencies are echoing a revolution that removes intermediaries and transfers power into the people’s hands. Any Crypto investment is a risky affair, play responsibly, lucky ones mint the fortune!

(My safer recommendation, there is a Bitcoin tracking stock whose symbol is GBTC, which trades around $52; which moves in parallel to Bitcoin).

Let me conclude,  nothing is guaranteed, but the potentials are enormous.

Gautam Adani World’s Biggest Wealth Gainer, Adds $16.2 Billion In 2021

Adani Group Chairman Gautam Adani has achieved a remarkable milestone amid the Covid-19 pandemic, as he added the highest wealth to his fortune in the world, as per the latest Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The Bloomberg Billionaires Index showed that so far in 2021, Adani has added $16.2 billion, taking his total net worth to $50 billion. With this surge in his wealth, Adani is now the 26th richest person in the world.

Even though he’s not in the club of the 25 richest people on the planet, Gautam Adani has managed to ‘outgrow’ fellow billionaires, including the two richest men in the world, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, by seeing his net worth ballooning the most in 2021. While Adani has added $16.2 billion to his wealth since the start of this year, Amazon’s Bezos has seen his wealth shrink by $7.59 billion to $183 billion while Tesla’s Musk added $10.3 billion to reach $180 billion, as per Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

The development comes at a time when the Adani Group is rapidly expanding its footprint in diversified sectors, including airports business and data centres. Recently, Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Limited announced that Windy Lakeside Investment Ltd, a unit of Warburg Pincus, will invest Rs 800 crore for a 0.49 per cent stake in the company.

Shares of several Adani companies have surged over the past one year amid the pandemic, adding to its Chairman’s wealth. Adani Enterprises’ shares have increased over four-fold in the past one year and the stock price of Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone has more than double during the period.

Google Co-founder Larry Page is ranked second in terms of highest gain in wealth with a growth of $14.3 billion. Amazon Inc Founder Jeff Bezos is the richest person on the planet with a net worth of $183 billion, followed by Elon Musk with a net worth of $180 billion.

Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani is the 10th richest person in the world with a net worth of $84.8 billion. So far in 2021, he has added $8.05 billion of wealth. (IANS)

Adani’s fattening wallet has been on account of a surge in investor interest in his companies across sectors such as ports, power plants, renewable power, airports, data centres and coal mines. Except for one company, all his other companies have seen their share prices appreciate by over 50% this year — the odd one out being Adani Green Energy, whose 12% rise in 2021 gets dwarfed by the 500% rise in its value in 2020.

Known to be media shy, the self made first generation billionaire is also not a stranger to controversies. His Carmichael coal mine project in Australia has been the object of disaffection of environmentalists for fear of damage to the ecology and the company was renamed last year as Bravus Mining and Resources in order to distance itself from the Adani brand name.

Senate Passes $1.9 Trillion Coronavirus Relief Package

The US Senate approved President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan Saturday, March 7th securing additional aid for American families, workers and businesses — and a legislative victory for the Biden administration.

After more than 24 hours of debate, the evenly divided Senate voted 50-49 to approve the measure. Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska was absent because he was in Alaska for a family funeral.

The final vote was 50-49, with all Democrats voting in favor of the bill and all Republicans voting against it. The passage of the bill was met with cheers and applause from Democrats, celebrating the passage of one of Mr. Biden’s key priorities. Vice President Kamala Harris did not need to visit the Capitol to break any ties, as GOP Senator Dan Sullivan left due to a family emergency on Friday.

The package would deliver a new round of financial assistance to Americans grappling with the impact of the pandemic, including $1,400 direct payments, an extension of supplemental unemployment benefits and an increase to the child tax credit.

Individuals earning up to $75,000 and couples earning up to $150,000 would receive the full direct payments of $1,400 per person. But those payments would phase out for individuals and couples who make more than $80,000 and $160,000, respectively.

The income cutoff was lowered after moderate Democrats demanded that the latest round of checks target lower-income families.

Federal unemployment benefits would be extended through Sept. 6 at the current rate of $300 per week, and the first $10,200 of those benefits would be tax-free for households that earn $150,000 or less. That provision followed a lengthy debate Friday among Democratic senators.

Democrats were under pressure to get the bill to Biden’s desk before current federal unemployment benefits expire on March 14.  The budget reconciliation process allowed them to act without Republican backing, requiring only a simple majority to pass the bill.

Democrats took a victory lap after the passage of the bill, with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer telling reporters after the vote that “it’s a great day for this country.” Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders called the bill “the most significant piece of legislation to benefit working families in the modern history of this country.”

President Biden dubbed the plan “historic” during an address on Saturday.

“For over a year the American people were told they were on their own,” he said, and later added, “This nation has suffered too much for much too long, and everything in this package is designed to relieve the suffering and to meet the most urgent needs of the nation.”

The president noted that 85% of American households will now soon receive direct payments of $1,400 per person, and a “typical middle class family of four” will get $5,600. “That means the mortgage can get paid. That means maintaining the health insurance you have. It’s going to make a big difference in so many lives in this country,” he said.

“The bottom line is this: This plan puts us on the path to beating this virus,” Mr. Biden said Saturday. “This plan gives those families that are struggling the most the help and the breathing room they need to get through this moment. This plan gives small businesses in this country a fighting chance to survive. And one more thing,” he added, “this plan is historic.”

Naureen Hassan Named 1st VP, COO Of NY Fed

Indian-American Naureen Hassan, a 25-year veteran of the financial services industry, has been named as the First Vice President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the Bank said that the appointment effective March 15, was approved by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. “As First Vice President, Hassan will be the New York Fed’s second ranking officer as well as an alternate voting member of the Federal Open Market Committee,” the statement said.

“Naureen’s leadership background, deep commitment to fostering diverse teams, and extensive technology and financial experience will be critical to her role as a bank leader,” John C. Williams, President and CEO of the New York Fed, was quoted as saying in the statement.

“I am confident that Naureen will be an inspiring and innovative leader, and look forward to working with her to move our organisation forward in line with our values,” he added.

Meanwhile, Denise Scott, Executive Vice President of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and chair of the New York Fed’s Board of Directors, said that “Naureen’s leadership experience and operational expertise are fully aligned with what the search committee and I envisioned for this role”.

According to the statement, Hassan has previously served in various capacities in the financial services industry, focusing primarily on digital and business process transformation. For the past four years, she was Chief Digital Officer of wealth management at Morgan Stanley. Hassan’s parents are immigrants from Kerala, India. Her father, Javad K. Hassan was a former senior executive at IBM and former president of Global Inter Connect Systems at AMP Inc (now TE Connectivity).  (IANS)

17% Of Food Production Wasted, UN Report Estimates

A new report from the United Nations estimates that 17% of food produced globally is wasted each year. Instead of finishing your leftovers, you let them go bad and buy takeout.

It’s a familiar routine for many — and indicative of habits that contribute to a global food waste problem that a new United Nations report says needs to be better measured so that it can be effectively addressed.

The U.N. report estimates 17% of the food produced globally each year is wasted. That amounts to 931 million metric tons (1.03 billion tons) of food.

The waste is far more than previous reports had indicated, though direct comparisons are difficult because of differing methodologies and the lack of strong data from many countries.

“Improved measurement can lead to improved management,” said Brian Roe, a food waste researcher at Ohio State University who was not involved in the report.

Most of the waste — or 61% — happens in households, while food service accounts for 26% and retailers account for 13%, the U.N. found. The U.N. is pushing to reduce food waste globally, and researchers are also working on an assessment of waste that includes the food lost before reaching consumers.

The authors note the report seeks to offer a clearer snapshot of the scale of a problem that has been difficult to assess, in hopes of spurring governments to invest in better tracking.

“Many countries haven’t yet quantified their food waste, so they don’t understand the scale of the problem,” said Clementine O’Connor, of the U.N. Environment Program and co-author of the report.

Food waste has become a growing concern because of the environmental toll of production, including the land required to raise crops and animals and the greenhouse gas emissions produced along the way. Experts say improved waste tracking is key to finding ways to ease the problem, such as programs to divert inedible scraps to use as animal feed or fertilizer.

The report found food waste in homes isn’t limited to higher income countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom.

Roe of Ohio State noted that food sometimes is wasted in poor countries without reliable home refrigeration. In richer countries, people might eat out more, meaning food waste is simply shifted from the home to restaurants.

Roe said cultural norms and policies also could contribute to waste at home — such as massive packaging, “buy one, get one free” deals, or lack of composting programs.

That’s why broader system changes are key to helping reduce waste in households, said Chris Barrett, an agricultural economist at Cornell University.

For example, Barrett said, people might throw away food because of a date on the product — even though such dates don’t always say when a food is unsafe to eat. “Food waste is a consequence of sensible decisions by people acting on the best information available,” he said.

To clarify the meaning of labeling dates, U.S. regulators have urged food makers to be more consistent in using them. They note that labels like “Sell By”, “Best By” and “”Enjoy By” could cause people to throw out food prematurely, even though some labels are intended only to indicate when quality might decline.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that a family of four wastes about $1,500 in food each year. But accurately measuring food waste is difficult for a variety of reasons including data availability, said USDA food researcher Jean Buzby, adding that improved measurements are part of a government plan to reduce waste.

Richard Swannell, a co-author of the U.N. report, said food was generally more valued even in richer countries just a few generations ago, since people often couldn’t afford to waste it. Now, he said, awareness about the scale of food waste globally could help shift attitudes back to that era. “Food is too important to waste,” he said.

Warren Buffett Admits To A Rare ‘Mistake’

In his annual letter to shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway (BRKB), investing guru Warren Buffett disclosed that the company took an $11 billion writedown last year on its 2016 purchase of Precision Castparts, describing it as “a mistake.”

The 90-year-old billionaire, Berkshire’s chairman since 1970, said in the company’s annual letter to shareholders that the “ugly” write-down had a simple explanation. “I paid too much for the company,” he said. “My miscalculation was laid bare by adverse developments throughout the aerospace industry.”

Despite that loss and fallout from the pandemic in general, the company’s operating businesses enjoyed a solid end to 2020. The sprawling conglomerate, which owns Geico, Dairy Queen, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company, Duracell batteries and many other consumer, financial, industrial and energy companies, said Saturday it posted a net profit of $35.8 billion in the fourth quarter, an increase of 23%.  Berkshire’s operating profit rose nearly 14% in the quarter, to $5 billion.

In the letter, Buffett also disclosed that Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholder meeting on May 1, normally held in Buffett’s home town of Omaha, Nebraska, will instead be livestreamed from Los Angeles so that vice chairman Charlie Munger, who lives in Southern California, can attend.

The 97-year old Munger did not attend last year’s virtual shareholder meeting in Omaha due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead, Buffett was joined on stage by another Berkshire vice chairman, Greg Abel.

“I missed him last year and, more important, you clearly missed him,” Buffett said of Munger, who is also chairman of California newspaper publisher Daily Journal (DJCO), which held its own shareholder meeting on Wednesday in Los Angeles.

Buffett said Abel and Berkshire’s third vice chairman, Ajit Jain, will also be on stage in LA to answer questions during the virtual May 1 meeting, which is scheduled to last from 1:30 p.m. ET until 5:30 p.m. Buffett said he hoped Berkshire can once again hold an in-person meeting in Nebraska in 2022. As he often does in Berkshire’s annual letter to shareholders, Buffett — who has a net worth of some $90 billion — dispensed some words of wisdom about the current state of the market.

Staying away from bonds and buying back more Berkshire stock

He is not currently a fan of bonds because despite a recent uptick, yields remain historically low. “Bonds are not the place to be these days,” he wrote, adding that the yield on the 10-year Treasury, now hovering around 1.46%, was 15.8% in 1981.

“In certain large and important countries, such as Germany and Japan, investors earn a negative return on trillions of dollars of sovereign debt. Fixed-income investors worldwide — whether pension funds, insurance companies or retirees — face a bleak future,” Buffett noted.

He also defended Berkshire’s propensity for using cash to buy back its own stock. The company spent $24.7 billion last year to repurchase shares. Some investors have argued that Berkshire could find a better use for its cash, which totaled more than $138 billion in cash at the end of 2020. Berkshire could it use to make more acquisitions.

“In no way do we think that Berkshire shares should be repurchased at simply any price,” Buffett wrote. “American CEOs have an embarrassing record of devoting more company funds to repurchases when prices have risen than when they have tanked. Our approach is exactly the reverse.”

Still, some wonder if Buffett has lost his Midas touch. Berkshire Hathaway’s stock is up just 11% over the past year, compared to a nearly 23% gain for the S&P 500. The company has lagged the broader market during the past five years, too, despite being a major investor in Apple (AAPL).

Buffett, however, defended the company’s investment strategy, describing it as like a classic diner. “At Berkshire, we have been serving hamburgers and Coke for 56 years. We cherish the clientele this fare has attracted,” Buffett wrote.

Although he has dipped his toe into higher techs like Apple and Amazon (AMZN) recently, the majority of Berkshire’s investments are in slower growth “value” stocks such as Chevron (CVX), Verizon (VZ), American Express (AXP) and, yes, Coca-Cola (KO). (Buffett is an avid drinker of Cherry Coke.)

In other words, don’t expect Buffett to start investing in meme stocks like GameStop (GME) or momentum darlings such as Tesla (TSLA).

“The tens of millions of other investors and speculators in the United States and elsewhere have a wide variety of equity choices to fit their tastes. They will find CEOs and market gurus with enticing ideas,” he said. “Many of those investors, I should add, will do quite well.”

But Buffett stressed a more patient approach to investing. “All that’s required is the passage of time, an inner calm, ample diversification and a minimization of transactions and fees,” he said.

US Debt Soars To $29 Trillion, Owes India $216 Billion

The US, the world’s largest economy, owes India USD 216 billion in loan as the country’s debt grows to a record USD 29 trillion, an American lawmaker has said, cautioning the leadership against galloping foreign debt, the largest of which comes from China and Japan.

In 2020, the US national debt was USD 23.4 trillion, that was USD 72,309 in debt per person. “We are going to grow our debt to USD 29 trillion. That is even more debt owed per citizen. There is a lot of misinformation about where the debt is going. The top two countries we owe the debt to are China and Japan, not actually our friends,” Congressman Alex Mooney said.

“We are at global competition with China all the time. They are holding a lot of the debt. We owe China over USD 1 trillion and we owe Japan over USD 1 trillion,” the Republican Senator from West Virginia said on the floor of the US House of Representatives as he and others opposed the latest stimulus package of USD 2 trillion.

In January, US President Joe Biden announced a USD 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package to tackle the economic fallout from the pandemic, including direct financial aid to average Americans, support to businesses and to provide a boost to the national vaccination programme.

“The people who are loaning us the money we have to pay back are not necessarily people who have our best interest at heart. Brazil, we owe USD 258 billion. India, we owe USD 216 billion. And the list goes on the debt that is owed to foreign countries,” Congressman Mooney said.

America’s national debt was USD5.6 trillion in 2000. During the Obama administration, it actually doubled.

“Since the eight years Obama was President, we doubled our national debt. And we are adding another—projected here—a completely out of control debt-to-GDP ratio,” he said urging his Congressional colleagues to consider this national debt issue before approving the stimulus package.

“So I urge my colleagues to consider the future. Don’t buy into the—the government has no money it doesn’t take from you that you are going to have to pay back. We need to be judicious with these dollars, and most of this is not going to coronavirus relief anyway,” he said.

Congressmen Mooney said that things have gone completely out of control. The Congressional Budget Office estimates an additional USD 104 trillion will be added by 2050. The Congressional Budget Office forecasted debt would rise 200 per cent.

“Today, as I stand here right now, we have USD 27.9 trillion in national debt…That is actually a little more than USD 84,000 of debt to every American citizen right here today,” Mooney said.

Reliance Acquires Majority Stake In US-Based Skytran Inc

Reliance Strategic Business Ventures Limited (RSBVL), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), announced on Sunday that it has acquired majority stake in its investee company skyTran Inc for a consideration of $26.76 million.

With this transaction, RSBVL has increased its shareholding to 54.46 per cent on a fully diluted basis, RIL said in a statement.

Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director of RIL, said: “Our acquiring majority equity stake in skyTran reflects our commitment to invest in building futuristic technologies that would transform the world. We are excited by skyTran’s potential to achieve an order of magnitude impact on highspeed intra and inter-city connectivity and its ability to provide a high speed, highly efficient and economical ‘Transportation-As-Service’ platform for India and the rest of the World.”

“We firmly believe that non-polluting high speed personal rapid transportation system will help facilitate environmental sustainability through efficient use of alternative energy and make an impactful reduction in air and noise pollution,” he added.

SkyTran is a technology company incorporated under the laws of Delaware in the US in 2011. It has developed breakthrough passive magnetic levitation and propulsion technology for implementing personal transportation systems aimed at solving the problem of traffic congestion globally. The technology has been developed by skyTran to create smart mobility solutions, said a company statement. (IANS)

Money vs. Happiness

The question whether the rich are more satisfied with their lives is often taken for granted, even though surveys, like the Gallup World Poll, show that the relationship between subjective well-being and income is often weak, except in low-income countries in Africa and South Asia. Researcher Daniel Kahneman and his collaborators, for example, report that the correlation between household income and reported life satisfaction or happiness with life typically ranges from 0.15 to 0.30. There are a few plausible reasons. First, growth in income mostly has a transitory effect on individuals’ reported life satisfaction, as they adapt to material goods. Second, relative income, rather than the level of income, affects well-being — earning more or less than others looms larger than how much one earns. Third, though average life satisfaction in countries tends to rise with GDP per capita at low levels of income, there is little increase in life satisfaction once GDP per capita exceeds $10,000 (in purchasing power parity). This article studies the relationships between subjective well-being, which is narrowly defined to focus on economic well-being in India, and variants of income, based on the only panel survey in India Human Development Survey (IHDS).

Why do we need a new measure of well-being when there is already a widely used, objective welfare measure based on per capita income? There are several reasons. The first stems from the distinction between decision utility and experienced utility. In the standard approach to measure well-being, ordinal preferences are inferred from the observations of decisions made supposedly by rational (utility maximising) agents. The object derived is decision utility. In contrast, recent advances in psychology, sociology, behavioural economics and happiness economics suggest that decision utility is unlikely to illuminate the utility associated with different experiences — hence the emphasis on measures that focus more directly on experienced utility, notably using subjective well-being (SWB) responses.

We draw upon the two rounds of the IHDS for 2005 and 2012. An important feature of IHDS is that it collected data on SWB. The question asked was: compared to seven years ago, would you say your household is economically doing the same, better or worse today? So, the focus of this SWB is narrow. But as it is based on self-reports, it connotes a broader view that is influenced by several factors other than income, assets, and employment, like age, health, caste, etc.

There is a positive relationship between SWB and per capita expenditure (a proxy for per capita income, which is frequently underestimated and underreported): the higher the expenditure in 2005, the greater was the SWB in 2012. The priority of expenditure, in time, rules out reverse causation from high SWB to high expenditure, i.e., higher well-being could also be associated with better performance resulting in higher expenditure. High expenditure is associated with a decent standard of living, good schooling of children, and financial security. As India’s comparable GDP per capita in 2003 (PPP) was $2,270, well below the threshold of $10,000, it is consistent with extant evidence.

Aspirations and achievements

In order to capture the gap between aspirations and achievements, we have analysed the relationship between SWB and ratio of per capita expenditure of a household to the highest per capita expenditure in the primary sampling unit. Although this is a crude approximation to relative deprivation, we get a negative relationship between SWB and this ratio. In other words, the larger the gap, the greater is the sense of resentment and frustration, and the lower is the SWB.

The larger the proportionate increase in per capita expenditure between 2005 and 2012, the greater is the SWB. To illustrate this, we construct three terciles of expenditure in 2005: the first representing extremely poor, the second the middle class, and the third the rich. If the proportionate increase in per capita expenditure is highest among the extremely poor and lowest among the rich, the higher will be the SWB of the extremely poor. This is indeed the case.

This provides important policy insights. One is that in a lower-middle-income country like India, growth of expenditure or income is significant. However, the widening of the gap between aspirations and achievements or between the highest expenditure/income of a reference group and actual expenditure/income of a household reflects resentment, frustration and loss of subjective well-being. So, taxing the rich and enabling the extremely poor to benefit more from economic opportunities can enhance well-being. In conclusion, objective welfare and subjective well-being measures together are far more useful than either on its own.

(Veena S. Kulkarni teaches Sociology at Arkansas State University and is a co-author for this article. Raghav Gaiha is Research Affiliate, Population Studies Centre, University of Pennsylvania; Vani S. Kulkarni teaches Sociology at University of Pennsylvania. The Oped was published in the Hindu and at IPS)

Bitcoin Hits $1 Trillion Market Cap, Soars To Another Record High

The world’s most popular cryptocurrency jumped to an all-time high above $54,000, setting it on course for a weekly jump of more than 11%. It has surged roughly 64% so far this month and was last up 5.5% at $54,405.

 

All digital coins combined have a market cap of around $1.7 trillion.(REUTERS)

Bitcoin touched a market capitalization of $1 trillion as it hit yet another record high on Friday, countering analyst warnings that it is an “economic side show” and a poor hedge against a fall in stock prices.

 

The world’s most popular cryptocurrency jumped to an all-time high above $54,000, setting it on course for a weekly jump of more than 11%. It has surged roughly 64% so far this month and was last up 5.5% at $54,405.

 

Bitcoin’s gains have been fueled by signs it is gaining acceptance among mainstream investors and companies, from Tesla and Mastercard to BNY Mellon.

All digital coins combined have a market cap of around $1.7 trillion.

“If you really believe there’s a store of value in bitcoin, then there’s still a lot of upside,” said John Wu, president of AVA Labs, an open-source platform for creating financial applications using blockchain technology.

 

“If you look at gold, it has a market cap $9 or $10 trillion. Even if bitcoin gets to half of gold’s market cap, that still growth of 4X, or $200,000. So I don’t know when it stops rising,” he added.

 

Still, many analysts and investors remain skeptical of the patchily regulated and highly volatile digital asset, which is little used for commerce.

 

Analysts at JP Morgan said bitcoin’s current prices were well above estimates of fair value. Mainstream adoption increases bitcoin’s correlation with cyclical assets, which rise and fall with economic changes, in turn reducing benefits of diversifying into crypto, the investment bank said in a memo.

 

“Crypto assets continue to rank as the poorest hedge for major drawdowns in equities, with questionable diversification benefits at prices so far above production costs, while correlations with cyclical assets are rising as crypto ownership is mainstreamed,” JP Morgan said.

 

Bitcoin is an “economic side show,” it added, calling innovation in financial technology and the growth of digital platforms into credit and payments “the real financial transformational story of the Covid-19 era.”

 

Other investors this week said bitcoin’s volatility presents a hurdle for it to become a widespread means of payment.

 

On Thursday, Tesla boss Elon Musk – whose tweets have fueled bitcoin’s rally – said owning the digital coin was only a little better than holding cash. He also defended Tesla’s recent purchase of $1.5 billion of bitcoin, which ignited mainstream interest in the digital currency.

 

Bitcoin proponents argue the cryptocurrency is “digital gold” that can hedge against the risk of inflation sparked by massive central bank and government stimulus packages designed to counter Covid-19.

 

Yet bitcoin would need to rise to $146,000 in the long-term for its market cap to equal the total private-sector investment in gold via exchange-traded funds or bars and coins, according to JP Morgan.

Coconut Oil Is The Best Hair Oil

Coconut oil is natures hair care miracle, offering 10-fold benefits when it comes to hair health. While its numerous hair advantages are well known, here are the top 5 benefits that make coconut oil indispensable.

  1. Coconut Oil Is The Ultimate Hair Protector

No one does the job of shielding hair better than coconut oil. Living in a warm and sunny environment has its own set of problems for hair. Every exposure to sun causes hair to lose moisture and shine, increasing dryness. But not when there’s coconut oil to protect it. A Research Gate study reveals that coconut oil seeps 10 layers deep into the hair shaft and forms a layer of protection that continually hydrates your hair. It also has SPF and anti-oxidant abilities to safeguard from sun damage. Additionally, chemical damage from shampoos and other styling products, including heat damage, can be averted by applying coconut oil prior to exposure.

  1. Coconut Oil Restores Hair Health From Within

As you tire out from superficial hair care products that do more damage than good in the long run, remember that coconut oil seeps into the deepest part of the hair shaft and rejuvenates the hair follicles to restore hair health from the inside out. The fatty acids and vitamins of this oil go deep into the hair to moisturize and hydrate the hair follicles to combat dryness.

  1. Coconut Oil Is A Scalp Saviour

Humidity and extreme climatic changes are not friends to our scalp. With abundant anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, coconut oil has the ability to prevent and treat multiple scalp issues including dandruff, dryness, and other infections. It also efficiently removes sebum build-up, a critical factor causing greasiness in the scalp and hair.

  1. Coconut Oil Effectively Removes Frizz

While we wish everyday were a good hair day, the reality is often quite different. Frizz, which is a result of moisture being sucked out of hair, generally happens when the harsh chemicals in some shampoos deplete the hair of its natural moisture. During the drying process, moisture is sucked out, especially in humid climes leading to frizzy hair. Applying a few drops of coconut oil to freshly washed, damp hair, ensures that the moisture stays locked in and your hair stays frizz free.

  1. Coconut Oil is Natural and Environmental Friendly

Coconuts trees, common as they are in the tropics, literally grow abundantly all around us. Hence, coconut oil is natural, local, available in plenty and perfectly suited to our hair’s multi-faceted needs, Let us ditch the multitude of exorbitantly priced, non-biodegradable and unnecessary hair products, and replace it with the all-natural goodness of coconut oil and do our part in protecting the environment. Our hair, our bank account and our planet will thank us for it. (Picture: Dr. Axe)

Biden Orders Allowing H4 Work Permits

“Withdrawn”. A single word on a thick bureaucratic file on the seventh day of the Biden administration delivered a huge win for spouses of workers on H1B visas in the US who spent the last four years worried sick that their work authorizations would be killed off.

The latest development brings to an end years of effort by the Donald Trump administration to rescind an Obama era regulation that allowed a certain subset of spouses of H1B visa holders to work in the US. Up until the summer of 2015, H4 visa holders could not legally hold paid employment in the United States. Almost as soon as Obama changed the game, the lawsuits followed and then the Trump presidency took the attack on the H4 work permit to a whole new level.A

On text messages, chat groups and online threads, the outpouring of relief played out online on Tuesday evening. “Great news! Hopefully H4EAD delays will be ending soon which is leading to a long wait for dependent spouses,” tweeted Rashi Bhatnagar.

Sharmistha Mohapatra posted, “Big win for H4 EAD holders today. Former Pres Trump’s EO to rescind H4 EAD is now withdrawn by POTUS. Let’s hope excruciating long wait times often resulting in job loss is taken away too!”

From the time the skewering of the H4 work permit (called the EAD) began in Fall 2017, the proposed rule has been published seven times for ongoing review, keeping the H4 community on cliff-edge. The Trump government justified the move saying it is “economically significant” and aligns with the “Buy American and Hire American” executive order, which was mostly code for keeping foreign workers out of the US and flinging red meat to the Trump base. Now, the backlink to that Trump executive order ends up as a 404 (page not found) error and re-routes to the Biden White House.

“Removing H-4 Dependent Spouses from the Class of Aliens Eligible for Employment Authorization” was a Trumpian agenda pursued by White House immigration hawks with intense zeal and inter-agency collaboration. It was being reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), where it was parked for months. The pressure on the H4 community never really let up since Trump took office.

The decision to rescind the proposed rule on revoking the H4 work permit came on the same day Biden signed an executive order calling for the practice of racial equity in the United States. Data from the US government show that Indian and Chinese workers account for the lion’s share of H1B visas. H4 visas typically follow the same trajectory. Indians filed 74 per cent of all H1B petitions in fiscal year 2019. Chinese filed 11.8 percent. (IANS)

UN Expects India’s Economy To Recover By 7.3% This Calendar Year

The United Nations sees the Indian economy recovering by 7.3 per cent this calendar year after a coronavirus-driven fall of 9.6 per cent last year. The UN’s World Economic Situation and Prospects 2021 report released on Monday said that “despite drastic fiscal and monetary stimulus” India’s gross domestic product (GDP) fell because of lockdowns and other containment efforts that “slashed domestic consumption without halting the spread of the disease.”

India’s GDP growth was forecast to dip in 2022 calendar year to 5.9 per cent, according to the report.

China, where the Covid-19 pandemic started and spread bring the rest of the world to its knees, was the only major economy to have grown last year, registering a 2.4 per cent increase last and is forecast to grow by 7.2 per cent this year and by 5.8 per cent next year, according to the report.

The global economy shrank by 4.3 per cent last year and is forecast to grow by 4.7 per cent this year and 5.9 per cent the next.

UN’s Chief Economist Elliot Harris said, “The depth and severity of the unprecedented crisis foreshadows a slow and painful recovery.”

He warned against the temptation to impose excessive fiscal austerity while the world recovers from the pandemic.

“As we step into a long recovery phase with the roll out of the vaccines against Covid-19, we need to start boosting longer-term investments that chart the path toward a more resilient recovery,” he said.

He said that the world now needed “a redefined debt sustainability framework, universal social protection schemes, and an accelerated transition to the green economy.”

The World Bank earlier this month forecast India’s economy to fall by 9.6 per cent during the current financial year but recover by 5.4 per cent next financial year if there is wide vaccination against the disease and it is contained.

Compared to this, according to the UN estimates made on a fiscal basis for India, its economy was estimated to fall by only 5.7 per cent in 2020-21 and increase by 7 per cent in 2021-22 and 5.6 per cent in 2022-23. The International Monetary Fund is set to release on Tuesday its report on the economic scenario with growth forecasts. (IANS)

(Pictuire: Jhalak.com)

America’s Billionaires Have Grown $1.1 Trillion Richer During The Pandemic

Billionaires are minting money during the pandemic, even as millions of Americans join the ranks of the poor. US billionaires have collectively become $1.1 trillion — nearly 40% — richer since mid-March, according to a report published Tuesday by progressive groups Institute for Policy Studies and Americans for Tax Fairness.

In other words, not only have the uber-wealthy recovered their losses from the spring, many are faring much better than before. That’s in large part because of the sizzling stock market. Elon Musk alone is about $155 billion richer, boosted by Tesla’s skyrocketing market valuation

Forty-six people joined the ranks of billionaires since March 18, 2020, the week after the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic, according to the report. 

Clearly, the pandemic is worsening America’s already troubling inequality crisis. The staggering gains at the top contrast sharply with the financial struggles of those at the bottom, many of whom are on the front lines of the pandemic and have lost their jobs or had wages cut.

America’s 660 billionaires now hold $4.1 trillion in wealth — two thirds more than the amount held by the bottom 50% of the US population, the report found. 

Poverty rate climbs sharply

More than 8 million Americans fell into poverty during the final six months of 2020, according to real-time estimates published by economists at the University of Chicago, University of Notre Dame and the Lab for Economic Opportunities. 

The US poverty rate declined during the first few months of the pandemic, in large part because of the federal government’s stimulus checks. However, the poverty rate climbed 2.4 percentage points during the second half of the year — nearly double the largest annual increase in poverty since the 1960s, the economists found. 

Some groups have suffered more than others. The poverty rate for Black Americans is 5.4 percentage points higher today than in June 2020, translating to 2.4 million people who have fallen into poverty, the economists found. 

For those with a high school education or less, the poverty rate has surged to 22.5%, compared to 17% in June. 

Florida, Mississippi, Arizona and North Carolina were among the states that suffered the largest increases in poverty rates. The state-level findings “suggest that poverty rose more in states with less effective unemployment insurance systems,” the economists said in the report. 

How Biden wants to fight inequality

The wealth and poverty statistics provide further proof of America’s K-shaped economic recovery. 

The stock market is at record highs, the housing market is booming and Big Tech is thriving. However, other industries including airlines, restaurants, hotels and movie theaters are still in disarray. 

Janet Yellen, President Joe Biden’s newly confirmed Treasury secretary, has acknowledged this problem and suggested it’s nothing new.

“Well before Covid-19 infected a single American, we were living in a K-shaped economy, one where wealth built on wealth while working families fell further and further behind,” Yellen told lawmakers during her confirmation hearing last week. 

Biden and Yellen are calling for bold action from Congress to ease inequality. Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan includes $1,400 stimulus checks, $350 billion in state and local aid and enhanced unemployment benefits. The White House is also expected to push for a multi-trillion infrastructure package that would be aimed at further boosting the economy — and could be financed in part by raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy.

Surging housing, stock markets

The pandemic has been a boon to the housing market, with existing home sales hitting a 14-year high in 2020. Home prices, a major source of wealth, hit a record high

The stock market has played a significant role in the divide between rich and poor.

Even though the US economy has not fully recovered from the pandemic, the S&P 500 is up by 72% from its low point in March. That V-shaped recovery reflects optimism about vaccines, trillions in relief provided by Washington and unprecedented steps from the Federal Reserve that have essentially forced investors to bet on stocks. 

Not surprisingly, surging stock prices are especially helpful to the wealthy because they have more skin in the game. As of early 2020, the wealthiest 10% of US households owned 87% of all stocks and mutual funds, according to the Federal Reserve. By contrast, millions of less affluent Americans can’t feel the stock market boom.

Tesla’s (TSLA) skyrocketing share price has lifted Musk’s wealth by more than 600%, according to the wealth report. Other big gainers include Amazon (AMZN) founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, whose wealth has climbed by more than $68 billion during the pandemic. Facebook (FB) co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is about $37 billion more wealthy than in mid-March.

Inequality isn’t just an American problem.

It will take more than a decade for the world’s poorest to recoup their losses from the pandemic, according to Oxfam International’s annual inequality report released Sunday. By contrast, it took just nine months for the world’s top 1,000 billionaires to recover. 

(Picture; Fox Carolina)

Indian Americans Have Highest Average Household Income In USA

The household income of Indian American family on an average is USD 120,000 (over ₹87 lakhs) per annum, surpassing all ethnic groups and white Americans as well, according to a report released by the Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development.

But almost 7 percent of Indian Americans live at or below the federal poverty line, defined in 2018 — the year for which the report drew its data — as $12,490 for a single person, and $25, 750 for a family of four. Low-income Indian American immigrants had feared the Trump-era’s version of the public charge rule, which would deny permanent residency to those who have availed of federal public benefits, such as food stamps, housing assistance and a myriad of other benefits.

Indian Americans and Filipino Americans have the lowest poverty rates among all ethnic groups, and White Americans. Fifty-seven percent of Indian Americans own their homes, while 26 percent are renters. Data shows that some groups, like Indian households, are earning remarkably high incomes (USD 119,858), others, like Burmese households, are earning incomes (USD 45,348) comparable to those earned by Black (USD 41,511) and Latinx (USD 51,404) households.

Nepalese and Bangladeshi American households have an annual income of about $46,000, while Pakistani Americans come closer to the AAPI average, with household incomes of $79,000 per year. Eighteen percent of Bangladeshi American households fall below the federal poverty line, while 16 percent of Pakistani Americans are low-income.

But prosperity does not cut equally among all AAPI ethnicities, including other South Asian American subgroups. While the mean household income for all AAPI ethnicities is $82,000 annually, Burmese Americans earn just half of that at $42,000 per year.

Burmese Americans have the highest level of poverty in the nation, surpassing Black and LatinX households, according to CAPACD — an Oakland, California-based organization that works with low-income AAPI families.

As a whole, 11 percent of Asian American households are at or below the federal poverty level. By comparison, almost 24 percent of Black and Native American households, and 18 percent of LatinX households are low-income.

Poverty levels for White Americans is below 10 percent; they also represent the highest percentage of homeowners — almost 80 percent — according to the CAPACD report.

Because of modern immigration policy, immigrants are more likely to be wealthy and educated when they immigrate to the U.S., stated the report. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 has favored higher education or professional class skills or those who have family in the U.S. As of 2012, 61 percent of Asian immigrants have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to the overall U.S. population, in which only one-third have graduated from college or university.

Asian Americans have also gobbled up the majority of employment-based visas, which contributes to a higher earning capacity.

But the authors of the report — Cy Watsky, Josh Isimatsu, Arika Harrison, and Emanuel Nieves — stated that the myth of the model minority masks the severe economic, education, and employment disparities within the AAPI community. People from Asia are clubbed into one ethnic category, which disallows an examination of diverse backgrounds, said the researchers.

“Ultimately, while the Asian American category allows for political solidarity and power for many, when we examine the economic indicators for the AAPI community, it becomes clear that the aggregated data does not come close to telling the full story of these diverse communities,” wrote the researchers.

The U.S. Census does not provide disaggregated wealth data, which is important in understanding the long-term financial security for AAPI households, stated CAPACD in a press release.

“The aggregation limits the conversation around Asian American wealth and financial security. In fact, many AAPI communities are not as economically prosperous as the stereotype of the community would otherwise suggest. These individuals have unrecognized economic needs, which can be best addressed through policies informed specifically by the diverse experiences of AAPI communities,” stated the organization, advocating for disaggregated data for the AAPI community.

(Picture: The Mill Chronicle)

Biden’s $1.9 Trillion Covid Relief Proposal Has Ambitious Plans for Rekindling US Economy

President-elect Joe Biden unveiled a $1.9 trillion relief package Thursday that included more stimulus payments and other direct aid, but don’t expect to see those funds in your bank account anytime soon. There’s a lot that has to happen before Biden’s plan — which is chock-full of measures long favored by Democrats — becomes law. And even though Democrats will soon control the White House and both chambers of Congress, that doesn’t mean lawmakers will follow Biden’s suggestions to the letter.

As per Kevin Kosar, resident scholar at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute and co-editor of the book “Congress Overwhelmed,” the earliest the stimulus money could reach one’s home maybe mid- to late February.

Biden’s massive plan includes several immediate relief items that are popular with a wide swath of Americans, including sending another $1,400 in direct stimulus payments, extending unemployment benefits and eviction protections, and offering more help for small businesses. It also would boost funding for vaccinations by $20 billion and for coronavirus testing by $50 billion.

But it also calls for making some larger structural changes, such as mandating a $15 hourly minimum wage, expanding Obamacare premium subsidies and broadening tax credits for low-income Americans for a year.

It’s the first of two measures Biden has planned to right the nation’s economy and fight the coronavirus. He intends to announce a recovery strategy at his first appearance before a joint session of Congress next month.

The plan, which would require congressional approval, is packed with proposals on health care, education, labor and cybersecurity. He has outlined a five-step approach to getting the vaccination to the American people, and to ensure that it is distributed equitably. “Equity is central to our COVID response,” he said.

Here’s a look at what’s in Biden’s plan: 

CONTAINING THE VIRUS

— A $20 billion national program would establish community vaccination centers across the U.S. and send mobile units to remote communities. Medicaid patients would have their costs covered by the federal government, and the administration says it will take steps to ensure all people in the U.S. can receive the vaccine for free, regardless of their immigration status.

— An additional $50 billion would expand testing efforts and help schools and governments implement routine testing. Other efforts would focus on developing better treatments for COVID-19 and improving efforts to identify and track new strains of the virus.

THE VACCINATION PLAN

— Working with states to open up vaccinations beyond health care workers, including to people 65 and older, as well as essential front-line workers.

— Establishing more vaccination sites, including working with FEMA to set up 100 federally supported centers by the end of his first month in office . He suggested using community centers, school gymnasiums and sports stadiums. He also called for expanding the pool of those who can deliver the vaccine.

— Using pharmacies around the country to administer the vaccine. The Trump administration already has entered into agreements with some large chains to do that. 

— Using the Defense Production Act, a Cold War-era law to “maximize the manufacture of vaccine and vaccine supplies for the country.”

— A public education campaign to address “vaccine hesitancy” and the refusal of some to take the vaccine. He called the education plan “a critical piece to account for a tragic reality of the disproportionate impact this virus has had on Black, Latino and Native American communities” 

INDIVIDUALS AND WORKERS

— Stimulus checks of $1,400 per person in addition to the $600 checks Congress approved in December. By bringing payments to $2,000 — an amount Democrats previously called for — the administration says it will help families meet basic needs and support local businesses.

— A temporary boost in unemployment benefits and a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures would be extended through September.

— The federal minimum wage would be raised to $15 per hour from the current rate of $7.25 per hour.

— An emergency measure requiring employers to provide paid sick leave would be reinstated. The administration is urging Congress to keep the requirement through Sept. 30 and expand it to federal employees.

— The child care tax credit would be expanded for a year, to cover half the cost of child care up to $4,000 for one child and $8,000 for two or more for families making less than $125,000 a year. Families making between $125,000 and $400,000 would get a partial credit.

— $15 billion in federal grants to help states subsidize child care for low-income families, along with a $25 billion fund to help child care centers in danger of closing.

SCHOOLS

— $130 billion for K-12 schools to help them reopen safely. The money is meant to help reach Biden’s goal of having a majority of the nation’s K-8 schools open within his first 100 days in the White House. Schools could use the funding to cover a variety of costs, including the purchase of masks and other protective equipment, upgrades to ventilation systems and staffing for school nurses. Schools would be expected to use the funding to help students who fell behind on academics during the pandemic, and on efforts to meet students’ mental health needs. A portion of the funding would go to education equity grants to help with challenges caused by the pandemic.

A president can propose ideas, but Congress passes the laws

 

Biden’s relief proposal now shifts to Congress, where it may change substantially as Democratic leaders transform it into a bill. They must decide whether they want to use a special legislative process called reconciliation, which would require only a simple majority of votes to pass the Senate — eliminating the need for Republican support — but would limit the provisions that could be included. Also, reconciliation also be used only sparingly each year. 

Top of Form

Bottom of Form

Another factor that could determine the path and speed at which lawmakers act is the health of the economy, said John Hudak, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. If the nation’s jobs report in early February shows a continued deterioration of the labor market, for instance, Congress may be spurred to move faster and approve more assistance.

Whatever leaders decide, the effort is expected to have an easier time passing in the House — which approved a $3 trillion relief package last May that contained measures similar to those in Biden’s plan — even though Democrats now hold a slimmer majority there.

“A new president and a new tone from the White House can put some pretty significant pressure when pressure is needed,” Hudak said. “For this to happen in some expedited time, it’s really going to require significant influence from the president, especially on key senators.”

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw Is New Vice-Chair Of US-India Business Council

US-India Business Council (USIBC) has selected Biocon Executive Chairperson Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw as one of its vice-chairs effective immediately. US Chamber of Commerce’s USIBC on January 14 announced three vice-chairs to its 2021 Global Board of Directors. The two other business executives joining Shaw as vice-chairs are Amway CEO Milind Pant and Edward Knight who is the vice-chair at Nasdaq. 

 “Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw will be one of the three vice-chairs for the US-India Business Council’s board of directors,” said USIBC Chairman Vijay Advani in a statement from Washington DC. “The perspectives of the new vice-chairs will be invaluable as the Council charts a path forward in the post-pandemic era and work to deepen the US-India partnership,” said Advani.

As vice-chairs, Mazumdar-Shaw, Pant and Knight will work with Council President Nisha Biswal and its policy directors to elevate priorities in key sectors and lead meetings between industry and government.

The trio will also work to amplify the voice of industry on international trade and investment issues and emphasise the key role that businesses can play in strengthening democratic institutions and combatting the global pandemic.

“I am honoured to serve the Council, which is committed to enhancing the US-India bilateral trade. In my new role, I look forward to forging collaborative initiatives in pharma and healthcare in research, innovation and skill development between our two nations,” Mazumdar-Shaw said.

The pandemic has provided an opportunity for robust engagement between the two countries that can lead to knowledge sharing in digital healthcare, medical technologies and Intellectual Property-led drug and vaccine innovation to deliver healthcare solutions, she added.

The Council represents top global firms operating across the US, India and the Indo-Pacific. Recognising that US-India trade is driven by new business hubs, the Council is also focused on strengthening connections between cities and states in both countries.

IAPC Seminar ByAlberta And British Columbia Chapters On Global Economy In The Post-Covid Era

“Covid pandemic globally impacted meticulously by various factors like globalization severely disrupted, the digital revolution accelerated, and inequality in all the sectors drastically increased,” said Dr. EtayankaraMuralidharan, Ph.D. (School of Business, MacEwan University, Edmonton, Canada.), commencing the Zoom conference on Saturday, January 9th, 2021.

 

As a part of IAPC’s Web series Town Hall meetings, Alberta and British Columbia Chapters together was hosting the seminar on the subject “Global Economy in Post Covid Era.” The meeting was presided by Dr. Joseph Chalil( Chairman, IAPC), and Dr. P.V Baiju ( IAPC Director board member) was the moderator for the seminar.

 

Dr. Muralidharan presented the vivid aspects of the Covid consequences and how the world is adopting and reshaping globalization with social media resources like Zoom or webinar. He narrated the income inequality and income mobility and the means to change the objective or methods of operation in the governmental, organizational, and individual levels. He presented in turn how organizations contribute to social inequalities and how the firms need to develop CSR practices, reshape work designs, and to align compensation

 

The other panelist and economic expert, Dr. S. Mohammed IrshadPh D. (Jamsetji Tata School of Disaster Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India presented how the Covid pandemic pushed the economy down. Major countries are on the brink of economic recession, and the global economy is going to trail Pre pandemic trajectory for many years to come. He explained how economic resilience or accountable capitalism or how government stimulus can help overcome it.

 

The subject matter experts, after their presentations, tactfully answered the various questions raised by the audience. It was condensed that already pre Covid recession was creeping in, and the unexpected pandemic boosted the factors of recession. It is still uncertain how long the peril will continue.

 

BinoyKaruvayil, VP of the IAPC Alberta chapter, welcomed the guests and all the participants from the various chapters in Canada and the USA. Miss NeethuSivaram of the British Columbia Chapter well managed the event as the MC. Anjaleena Jose, the budding singer with her melodious voice, inspired the participants with her patriotic song ‘ VandeMataram.’

 

Dr. Joseph Chalil thanked the guests and the Chapter members of the hosting Chapters. Chairman also released the colorful “IAPC Alberta Chronicle Vol 2” and congratulated Chief editor Rajesh Peter and the editorial team. Founder Chairman GinsmonZacharia, General Secretary Biju Chacko, Treasurer Reji Philip, BoD member Thampanoor Mohan, Vice President C G Daniel, Treasurer Innocent Ulahannan were also active participants of the Zoom Meeting.  With the vote of thanks by Anitha Naveen, Secretary BC chapter, the productive and informative session was concluded.

World Bank To Fund $500 Million ‘Green’ Highways Project In India

India and the World Bank on Tuesday signed a $500 million project to build safe and green national highway corridors in the states of Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.
The project will also enhance the capacity of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways in mainstreaming safety and green technologies.
The Green National Highways Corridors Project will support the ministry construct 783 km of highways in various geographies by integrating safe and green technology designs such as local and marginal materials, industrial by-products, and other bio-engineering solutions. The project will help reduce GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions in the construction and maintenance of highways.
“Connectivity for economic growth and connectivity for sustainable development are two important aspects of a country’s development trajectory. This operation brings these two priorities together in support of India’s growth strategy,” said Junaid Ahmad, World Bank Country Director in India.
“This project will provide efficient transportation for road users in the four states, connect people with markets and services, promote efficient use of construction materials and water to reduce the depletion of scarce natural resources, and help lower GHG emissions,” he added.
The National Highways of India carry about 40 per cent of road traffic. However, several sections of these highways have inadequate capacity, weak drainage structures and black spots prone to accidents. The project will strengthen and widen existing structures; construct new pavements, drainage facilities and bypasses; improve junctions; and introduce road safety features.
As it is imperative that the infrastructure investments are climate resilient, disaster risk assessment of about 5,000 km of the National Highway network will also be undertaken under the project along with support to the ministry for mainstreaming climate resilience aspects in project design and implementation.
The $500 million loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) has a maturity of 18.5 years, including a grace period of five years. (IANS)

Lawmakers Urge President-Elect Joe Biden to Preserve Work Authorization for H-4 Visa Holders

Over 60 members of the US Congress, including all four members of the ‘Samosa Caucus,’ wrote a letter to President-elect Joe Biden Dec. 16, urging him to preserve work authorization for H-4 visa holders. H-4 EAD is granted to the spouses of H-1B visa holders who are on track to get their green cards.
“We respectfully request that the Department of Homeland Security publish a Federal Register notice on day one of your administration that would extend the validity period of all expired H-4 EADs. We are confident that your incoming Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security will rectify the systemic processing issues that have been created by the Trump Administration,” wrote the members of Congress.
The revocation of H-4 work authorization is the Sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of more than 100,000 women from India since the advent of the Trump administration. H-4 visa holders are the dependent spouses of H-1B workers and largely have skills comparable to those of their spouse. However, they had not been allowed to work until 2015, when former President Barack Obama, via executive order, allowed them work authorization, known as H-4 EAD.
Shortly after taking office, President Donald Trump immediately stated his intention to rescind H-4 EAD. A Notice of Proposed Rulemaking — which has passed almost all procedural hurdles — currently rests in the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for final approval.
Save Jobs USA filed a lawsuit in 2016 against the Department of Homeland Security, alleging that foreign workers were competing with and replacing American workers.
H-4 visa holders with work authorization are not limited to the types of jobs they can pursue.
The DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last November that H-4 EAD was in fact negatively impacting American workers: H-1B workers were remaining in the U.S. longer than they might have, since their spouses now had work authorization. Thus, they now faced increased competition for employment from H-4 and H-1B visa holders.
The Circuit Court has thrown the case back to a lower court.
In their letter to Biden, the 60 members of Congress — including Reps. Ami Bera and Ro Khanna, D-California; Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington; and Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Illinois, framed the issue as one of gender equality.
“This rule presented an important step towards rectifying gender disparities in our immigration system as around 95 percent of H-4 visa holders who have secured work authorization are women,” wrote the members of Congress.
“Before the rule was granted, many women on H-4 visas described depression and isolation in moving to a new country and not being allowed to work outside of the home. Unfortunately, these women are losing and will continue to lose their jobs until this is put right, disrupting the lives of their families and the functioning of employers in our districts,” wrote the lawmakers.
The organization Save H4 EADs conducted a survey of 2,400 of its members in 2018. The survey found that 59 percent have postgraduate or professional degrees and above and 96 percent have a bachelor’s degree and above.
About 43 percent purchased a home after receiving work authorization, and 35 percent of them bought a home over $500,000. Forty-nine percent of workers with H-4 EAD have annual individual income of over $75,000. Sixty percent pay taxes of more $5,000. Five percent have started their own businesses, creating employment for American workers.
Meanwhile, in a major win for H-1B workers, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Dec. 16 ruled that computer programming can be considered a specialty occupation, stating that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ denial of a visa for a computer programmer was “arbitrary and capricious.”
Immigration attorney Cyrus Mehta cheered the ruling. In a blog post, Mehta said: “While the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Innova Solutions is doubtless a victory for U.S. technology companies who employ foreign workers as computer programmers, the decision has broader implications, as well. For one, the decision is a refreshing rebuttal to USCIS’s longstanding practice of challenging computer programming on specialty occupation grounds.”
The Indian American attorney noted that this was the first time a circuit court has ruled in favor of the H-1B petitioner, adding that petitioners have won similar decisions in lower courts.
On March 31, 3017, two months after President Donald Trump took office with his “Buy American, Hire American” ethos, USCIS released a memo stating that computer programming would no longer be considered a specialty occupation. The agency noted that some programmers hold only an associate’s degree or less.
“As such, it is improper to conclude based on this information that USCIS would “generally consider the position of programmer to qualify as a specialty occupation,” noted the USCIS memo.
Current law requires H-1B workers to possess a bachelor’s degree or higher, with academic credentials specifically related to their prospective job duties.
In 2017, USCIS had denied an H-1B visa to Dilip Dodda who was scheduled to work for Santa Clara, California-based Innova Solutions as a programmer analyst. Dodda was denied his visa: USCIS noted that computer programming was not a specialty occupation.
Dodda had more than 10 years of experience in computer programming. Innova had planned to assign him to work for one of its clients, Change Healthcare Operations. Dodda would provide consulting services on Change Healthcare’s patient billing and payment system, which required knowledge of several programming languages.
However, USCIS noted in its response to the lawsuit that Innova had stated in its Labor Certification Application that the position in question was a “Wage Level 1 entry position.”
Innova provided to USCIS a list of about 14 functions that Dodda would perform, including writing script, testing beta sites, performing initial debugging, and rewriting code to fix buggy sites. USCIS nonetheless denied Innova’s petition for Dodda.
In its lawsuit, Innova contended that USCIS failed to properly consider the evidence and did not articulate any reasonable basis for its decision. It stated that the agency’s decision therefore must be set aside as arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion.
In 2019, United States Magistrate Judge Virginia Demarchi denied Innova’s lawsuit against USCIS, ruling that Innova had not sufficiently established that Dodda was to be engaged in a specialty occupation.
Demarchi said in her ruling that USCIS had noted that even interns could be classified as computer programmers. She ruled in favor of USCIS, stating that Innova failed to submit sufficient evidence “showing the unique or complex nature of the position, or how this position differs from other similar positions within the same industry.”
Innova appealed the lower court’s decision. Judge John Owens, writing for the three-judge panel at the Ninth Circuit, noted that USCIS relied solely on the Labor Department’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, which states that most computer programmers normally have attained a bachelor’s degree or higher, and that a bachelor’s degree is the typical level of education most programmers need to enter the field. “USCIS’s decision in light of that evidence was arbitrary and capricious,” ruled Owens. “It offered an explanation for its decision that ran counter to the evidence before it.” Mehta said in a blog post

Trump Backs Down, Signs Covid Stimulus Package

Responding to multiple calls and prompting s from leaders from both the political Parties, President Donald Trump, finally signed into law a major coronavirus stimulus/survival package along with an annual spending bill on December 27th night, avoiding a government shutdown before a Monday night deadline.
Trump has railed against the $900 billion coronavirus relief bill and a $1.4 trillion government funding bill since Congress approved it, demanding $2,000 checks and cutting out foreign aid. But on Sunday evening after days of being lobbied by allies, Trump decided to sign the bill and not leave office amid a maelstrom of expired benefits and a government shutdown.
The Bill was voted upon nearly a week ago, and millions were awaiting Trump’s signature, as millions of Americans have temporarily lost their unemployment benefits after President Donald Trump failed to sign the Covid relief bill into law.
US President-elect Joe Biden had warned of “devastating consequences” if Mr Trump continued to delay signing but the Saturday deadline has now passed. Republicans both privately and publicly tried to sway Trump to change his mind after days of attacks on the bill.

After careful negotiations among congressional leaders and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Trump threatened to blow up the deal — which his own administration negotiated and indicated he would support. More than $2 trillion was at stake, including badly needed pandemic aid for programs like unemployment and food assistance.
The package worth $900bn was approved by Congress after months of difficult negotiations and compromises. Trump said, he wanted to give people bigger one-off payments.
The bill includes the payment of $600 to Americans earning less than $75,000 a year. Mr Trump said, he wants Americans to receive $2,000 but Republicans in Congress refused to agree to the change.
The coronavirus economic relief is part of a $2.3tn spending package that includes $1.4tn for normal federal government spending. A partial government shutdown would have begun on Tuesday, had Trump still not signed the bill. About 14 million Americans would have been affected by a lapse in unemployment benefit payments and new stimulus cheques.
What did Biden say?
In a strongly worded statement published on the transition website on Saturday, Mr Biden described Mr Trump’s refusal to sign the bill as an “abdication of responsibility”.
“It is the day after Christmas, and millions of families don’t know if they’ll be able to make ends meet because of President Donald Trump’s refusal to sign an economic relief bill approved by Congress with an overwhelming and bipartisan majority,” Mr Biden said.
He praised the example of members of Congress in compromising and reaching a bipartisan agreement, adding: “President Trump should join them, and make sure millions of Americans can put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads in this holiday season.”
What’s Trump position?
On Twitter earlier, the president had reiterated his objection to the bill, saying: “I simply want to get our great people $2000, rather than the measly $600 that is now in the bill.”
The coronavirus aid relief bill – with the larger budget bill rolled in – overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives and Senate on Monday but, a day later, Mr Trump issued an implied veto threat, describing the package as a “disgrace” full of “wasteful” items.
He baulked at the annual aid money for other countries in the federal budget, arguing that those funds should instead go to struggling Americans.
Mr Trump’s decision to bat the measure back to Capitol Hill stunned lawmakers since he has largely stayed out of negotiations for a coronavirus aid bill that had stalled since last July.
His top economic adviser, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, had proposed the $600 payments early this month, and many have questioned why the president waited until now to object.
“I will sign the omnibus and Covid package with a strong message that makes clear to Congress that wasteful items need to be removed. I will send back to Congress a redlined version, item by item, accompanied by the formal rescission request to Congress insisting that those funds be removed from the bill,” Trump said on Sunday night.
The president also said the Senate would soon begin work on ending legal protections for tech companies, examining voter fraud and boosting the check size for direct payments. The current Congress ends in six days.
“I applaud President Trump’s decision to get hundreds of billions of dollars of crucial COVID-19 relief out the door and into the hands of American families as quickly as possible,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in a statement that did not mention the commitments Trump said the Senate has made.
“To vote against this bill is to deny the financial hardship that families face and to deny them the relief they need,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said previously in a statement.
On Sunday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who had pressed for higher stimulus checks, urged Trump to sign the bill, saying on ABC’s “This Week” that “the suffering of this country will be immense” if the president fails to sign the bill before the shutdown deadline.
But even if the House passes $2,000 stimulus checks, the GOP-controlled Senate is not expected to take up the legislation. The chamber will hold a pro forma session Monday morning and is scheduled to return Tuesday to begin the process of overriding Trump’s veto of the annual defense bill.

With Congress Approving Stimulus Bill, When Will You Get A Second Stimulus Check?

A second round of stimulus payments is included in a coronavirus relief package struck by congressional leaders late Sunday after months of negotiations between Congressional leaders from both the major political parties.

US Congressional Lawmakers voted Monday on the deal, which would provide for $600 checks, but experts say it will take at least two weeks for the Treasury to get cash into individuals’ bank accounts after legislation is signed.

“The timing could be more challenging this time, but the IRS could likely begin to get the money out in January,” said Howard Gleckman, a senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center.

In March, Congress provided individuals with $1,200 direct payments and couples with $2,400 plus $500 per child under the $2 trillion CARES Act. Those payments started phasing out for singles who earn more than $75,000 a year and those earning more than $99,000 did not receive anything. The income thresholds were doubled for couples.
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As with the first round, the new payments will only be sent to people below a certain income level, though it wasn’t immediately clear Sunday where that would be set.
It took two weeks after that bill was passed for the IRS to start distributing the money — but some eligible recipients still haven’t received it, months later.
Who gets the money fastest

The payments do not go all out at once. Those whose bank information is on file with the IRS will likely get the money first because it will be directly deposited into their account. Others will receive paper checks or prepaid debit cards in the mail.

About 90 million people — more than half of those eligible — received their payments within the first three weeks of April after the March deal was signed. Most people had their money within two months.

Still, about 12 million eligible Americans were at risk of not getting the money at all because the IRS had no way to reach them. While most people received the money automatically, very low-income people who don’t normally file tax returns had to register online before November 21 to provide their address or bank account number.

IRS under pressure

If Congress keeps the eligibility requirements the same as they were for the first round of checks, the process may be nearly as easy as hitting a button. But it could complicate things if the parameters are changed — especially if Congress adds restrictions aside from income.
Additional checks may delay the start of the 2020 tax filing season. A second stimulus check means the agency will have to make changes to the tax return forms, some of which have already been sent to the printers.

December is not an ideal time to add to the IRS’s workload. It’s typically the month when work is done to prepare for the upcoming filing season and more staff may be on leave than usual due to the holidays.

“I believe the IRS will deliver the stimulus checks in a timely manner. It just might be at the expense of the filing season start date,” said Chad Hooper, the executive director of the Professional Managers Association, which advocates for more than 30,000 non-union IRS workers.

This story has been updated with details of the stimulus deal reached Sunday.

Protesting Indian Farmers Call For 2nd Strike In A Week By SHONAL GANGULY (AP News)

Tens of thousands of protesting Indian farmers called for a national farmers’ strike on Monday, the second in a week, to press for the quashing of three new laws on agricultural reform that they say will drive down crop prices and devastate their earnings.

The farmers are camping along at least five major highways on the outskirts of New Delhi and have said they won’t leave until the government rolls back what they call the “black laws.” They have blockaded highways leading to the capital for three weeks, and several rounds of talks with the government have failed to produce any breakthroughs.

Scores of farmer leaders also conducted a token hunger strike on Monday at the protest sites. Heavy contingents of police in riot gear patrolled the areas where the farmers have been camping.

Protest leaders have rejected the government’s offer to amend some contentious provisions of the new farm laws, which deregulate crop pricing, and have stuck to their demand for total repeal.

At Singhu, a protest site on the outskirts of New Delhi, hundreds of farmers blocked all entry and exit routes and chanted anti-government slogans. Some of them carried banners reading “No farmers, no food.”

About two dozen leaders held a daylong hunger strike at the site, while a huge communal kitchen served food for the other protesters.

“It’s the government’s responsibility to provide social benefits (to people.) And if they don’t give those, then people will have to come together” to protest, said Harvinder Kaur, a government employee who came from her home in Punjab state to help at the kitchen.

Another protester, Rajdeep Singh, a 20-year-old student who helps his farming family back home in Punjab, said the protest would continue until their demands are met.

“Now it’s their (government’s) ego and the question of our pride,” he said.

Farmer leaders have threatened to intensify their actions and have threatened to block trains in the coming days if the government doesn’t abolish the laws.

The farmers filed a petition with the Supreme Court on Friday seeking the quashing of the laws, which were passed in September. The petition was filed by the Bharatiya Kisan Union, or Indian Farmers’ Union, and its leader, Bhanu Pratap Singh, who argued that the laws were arbitrary because the government enacted them without proper consultations with stakeholders.

The farmers fear the government will stop buying grain at minimum guaranteed prices and corporations will then push prices down. The government says it is willing to pledge that guaranteed prices will continue.

With nearly 60% of the Indian population depending on agriculture for their livelihoods, the growing farmer rebellion has rattled Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration and its allies.

Modi’s government insists the reforms will benefit farmers. It says they will allow farmers to market their produce and boost production through private investment.

Farmers have been protesting the laws for nearly two months in Punjab and Haryana states. The situation escalated three weeks ago when tens of thousands marched to New Delhi, where they clashed with police.

GOPIO-CT Organizes Experts Panel On 2021 Tax Planning and Tax Saving Tips

With the year 2020 with all the uncertainties due to the Covid pandemic coming to a close, most of us, especially the Indian Americans are getting ready to file the annual Tax Returns. With ever changing Tax Laws, and in the context of the Covid pandemic and the ushering in of a new administration led by President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President Elect Kamala Harris preparing to lead the nation, there are several unanswered questions on how best to use the prevailing tax laws to benefit individuals, families and businesses.

 

GOPIO-CT, the most active Chapter in the world, under the leaderships of Dr. Thomas Abraham, Chairman of GOPIO International and Ashok Nichani, the local Chapter president and the Exceptive Committee organized a Virtual Zoom Session on Friday, Dec. 4, 2020, with the objective of educating Indian Americans on 2021 Major US Tax Reform, Tax Planning and Tax Saving Tips, International Taxes, Estate & Gift tax and Retirement Plans. Attended by hundreds of members and leaders of GOPIO, the educative session was led by several experts on Tax law in the US, with particular focus on international Taxes.

 

Cecil Nazareth, ACA, CPA, MBA addressed the audience on Tax Planning 2020-’21 and International Taxes with particular focus on: IRS enforcement; Biden proposed tax plan; Year-end Tax planning; and, Other proposals/planning tools. He recommended tax filers to avoid “red flags” that could potentially lead to one greater scrutiny. Under Biden administration, Nazreth stated, “Chances of tax cut is greater for lower and middle class Americans, with tax rate possibly to go up for those earning over $400,000.” He was of the opinion that “No tax hike in Covid times” and “New credit for people providing long term care to relatives with incentive to offer more retirement savings.” He suggested small businesses to “Apply for PPP loan forgiveness NOW” while cautioning that “Expenses are not deductible if loan is forgiven.”

 

Cecil Nazareth CA, CPA is a partner with Nazareth CAs & CPAs, Cecil worked at Ernst & Young and the AICPA in key strategic positions. Cecil is an Indian Chartered Accountant and a U.S. CPA. Cecil is a leading authority on Indo–US tax issues. Cecil has an M.B.A. in Finance from Fordham University and Information Technology from Columbia University. His is also an author of “International tax and compliance handbook” with special emphasis on India-U.S. taxes.

 

In his address, Michael Markhoff. Esq., spoke about Estate, Gift taxes and Trust Options for Children, while educating the audience on “changes you should consider to your estate plan in 2021 due to the election; Planning to minimize state estate taxes; and Trust options for children.”

Markhoff said, the new Administration under Biden is likely to lower the exemption, resulting less returns for people with higher income. He suggested to “make gifts before the end of the year” and highlighted the options for making gifts from one person to another within family to avoid higher taxes. Suggesting that Life Insurance is a good planning and will help pay for estate plans, he recommended “charity plans will leave with lower state taxes.”

 

Attorney Michael Markhoff, a partner at Danziger & Markhoff LLP, is a graduate of Columbia College and Brooklyn Law School and is listed in Best Lawyers in America – Trusts and Estates and Category and Super Lawyers – Trusts and Estates Category. Michael was named Trusts and Estates Lawyer of the Year for White Plains, New York for 2016 and 2018 by Best Lawyers in America.

 

Andy Roth, Esq., addressed the audience on “Looking into Key CARES Act and SECURE Act – Retirement Plan, including on taxes for those with Coronavirus infections. Under CARES ACT, he said, “You, or your spouse or dependent, are diagnosed with coronavirus by a CDC-approved test (including a test authorized under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act;) and, or our experience adverse financial consequences as a result of your, or your spouse or a member of your household that is, someone who shares your principal residence. “Qualified individuals can elect in their tax return to treat allowable in-service distributions in 2020 as CRDs even if their employer’s plan does not adopt CRDs,” he told the audience.

 

Attorney Andrew E. Roth is a partner of Danziger & Markhoff LLP with over 35 years of experience as an ERISA attorney.  He is a frequent lecturer in the areas of pension, profit-sharing and employee benefits law.  Mr. Roth attended University College of Arts and Science of NYU and graduated magna cum laude from Brooklyn Law School. Mr. Roth also received an LLM in Taxation from NYU School of Law.

 

Shiva Bhashyam CFP®, AEP®, APMA® emphasized the importance of Financial Planning in Retirement and offered Market update and outlook, Retirement planning checklist, and Behavioral investing – how and why to manage emotions during volatile markets.

 

Shiva Bhashyam received his undergraduate degree in economics from Tufts University and a Masters Degree in Management and Finance from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Shiva is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) practitioner, Accredited Estate Planner (AEP®), and Accredited Portfolio Manager Advisor (APMA®). Shiva has been a financial advisor with an Ameriprise Financial Private Wealth Advisory Practice, Bhashyam Wealth Management Associates. Shiva has been named a Forbes Best-in-State Wealth Advisor for 2019 & 2020.

 

Kim Ramchandani spoke about Long-Term Care Planning Options, and on ways to help you to have a conversation with your loved ones about making a plan now about your wishes. “It is important because your life and your health don’t just affect you; they affect all the people who love and care for you,” she said.

Kim Ramchandani, CHFC® is Senior Vice President, Financial Consultant, Webster Investments. Kim provides holistic wealth management services that address he full spectrum of her clients’ financial concerns, including investments, life insurance, family finances, retirement and estate planning. She has 13 years’ experience in investment services and is a Chartered Financial Consultant. ®

David Folley, who works closely with Webster Investments, in his presentation spoke about Tax Incentives to us in 2020. Pointing to the fact that a third of our society is in retirement, he said, they can be used to reimburse age related caps in the tax laws. While educating the participants on the long-term care, he said, Long Term Care, he said, it is the option to live in the community rather than be institutionalized when one is old or disabled. He warned that when one is older, Medicare and Medicaid will run their course soon, and one’s savings will end and one’s family will not be there to care for you. He suggested using Long Term Care Plans as   a way to prepare to cover the cost of treatment when you need it the most.

In his brief introductory remarks, GOPIO International Chairman Dr. Thomas Abraham reminded participants of the many efforts by GOPIO, which has led a delegation to the IRS representing Indian Americans and their many concerns, especially on the FBAR issue in the year 2011.

GOPIO-CT President Ashok Nichani welcomed the panelists and the participants. In his remarks, he highlighted the many initiatives, especially educating Indian Americans on Taxes and Tax Laws in the US. GOPIO-CT Vice president Prasad Chintalapudi moderated the Q/A after each speaker. GOPIO-Central Jersey Vie President Vijay Garg served hosted the Zoom event for GOPIO-CT. Other GOPIO leaders present at the Webinar included GOPIO-CT Secretary Rajneesh Misra. GOPIO International officers including Vice President Ram Gadhavi, Treasurer Kewal Kanda, Associate Secretary Jaswant Mody and Media Council Chair Nami Kaur, GOPIO-Manhattan President Shivender Sofat and GOPIO-Central jersey President Kunal Mehta.

Over the last 14 years, GOPIO-CT, a chapter of GOPIO International has become an active and dynamic organization hosting interactive sessions with policy makers and academicians, community events, youth mentoring and networking workshops, and working with other area organizations to help create a better future. GOPIO-CT – Global Organization of People of Indian Origin – serves as a non-partisan, secular, civic and community service organization – promoting awareness of Indian culture, customs and contributions of PIOs through community programs, forums, events and youth activities. It seeks to strengthen partnerships and create an ongoing dialogue with local communities.