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Economy
Protests and Covid leave Hong Kong stuck in recession

Hong Kong’s economy was already in recession when the pandemic hit in January. Six months of running battles between pro-democracy campaigners and local government had deterred many of the visitors who fuel the lucrative tourism industry, while the threat of violence on the streets and closures of shops had sent retail sales down nearly a quarter on the previous year.With much of Asia shut down by coronavirus restrictions during the winter months, there was little expectation of a recovery until the spring, when the level of infections fell to almost zero across mainland China and most of the rest of the region, and the measures could be eased.Some analysts expected the recovery to be strong. Hong Kong is a hub for financial and professional services in competition with Singapore. Many workers could operate from home and maintain the same level of activity.Q&AThe fight for Hong KongShowThe national security law China imposed on Hong Kong in June 2020 has wrought profound changes on the region of more than 7 million people.From who really runs Hong Kong now to the fate of the pro-democracy movement and how major global companies are grappling with the implications of

Economy
World Bank announces $12bn plan for poor countries to buy Covid vaccines

The World Bank has announced plans for a $12bn (£9.3bn) initiative that will allow poor countries to purchase Covid-19 vaccines to treat up to 2 billion people as soon as effective drugs become available.In an attempt to ensure that low-income countries are not frozen out by wealthy nations, the organisation is asking its key rich-nation shareholders to back a scheme that will disburse cash over the next 12 to 18 months.David Malpass, the World Bank president, said the initiative was needed because Covid-19 was having a much bigger impact on low and middle income countries than on the developed world.“Having this finance available will be a game changer because once a safe and effective vaccine is available it will allow people to resume their lives with confidence.”Many countries – including the US, the UK, China and Russia – are working on treatments for Covid-19 and Malpass said the World Bank did not want to wait for a vaccine to become available before acting.“There has been substantial reservation of doses by the higher income countries and we want to make sure low and middle income countries have access as well,” Malpass said.The Bank believes the global economy will not recover fully

Economy
German compromise on releasing EU funds 'caves in to Viktor Orbán'

Germany has been accused of caving into Viktor Orbán over a revamped draft law on the control of EU funds, as German diplomats attempt to settle a row that threatens to hold up billions of coronavirus recovery funds.European Union leaders had agreed a €1.8tn (£1.63 tn) financial package, consisting of a €750bn coronavirus recovery fund and a €1.074tn budget for 2021-27, at an epic summit spanning four days and nights in July. However, turning that political agreement into legal texts that commanded the support of the European parliament has been running into trouble that risked delaying the funding.A leaked compromise plan, drawn up by Germany, holder of the EU’s rotating presidency, has been heavily criticised by the Netherlands, the Nordic countries and many concerned MEPs.The law proposed in July had been intended to ensure that only countries who respected the rule of law could benefit from EU funds. The regulation had been proposed amid growing alarm in the EU about backsliding on the rule of law in Poland and Hungary, whose nationalist governments benefit from generous EU funds.Those opposed to the German-brokered compromise said the new text narrowed the definition of the rule of law. “The current proposal rows back

Economy
Difficult to find fairness amid the Covid crisis | Letters

The chancellor’s efforts to support the economy amid the Covid crisis are welcome. But it is worrying that while he freely accepts that many livelihoods will be put in jeopardy, he tells people they should not be afraid about the future (Tory lockdown sceptics praise Sunak for saying UK must live ‘without fear’, 24 September).Since lockdown was relaxed and infection rates have increased, there is a growing tension across generations involving the distinction between lives and livelihoods. As a retired person I have worked my shift, I am fortunately comfortably off and own my home like so many of my generation. I am aware and able enough to look after myself during this crisis, but far too often I hear my peers carping about how younger people are to blame for the growing problems. I am not talking about reckless and stupid behaviour – that is never acceptable – but people having to make difficult choices just to survive.There seems to be an expectation that people working to maintain themselves and their families under huge pressure should be more worried about me and my lot. This is wholly unfair. We should be doing everything in our power to protect and

Economy
The Guardian view on Covid-19 and cults of strength: the weakest response | Editorial

Even leaders who thrive by bullying people have realised that they can’t bully a pandemic. But nor does caution fit easily with their macho political image. Their temptation has been to let it run its course instead. Now the facts are catching up with them.The Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, has repeatedly dismissed the risks from coronavirus, defied his own government’s advice by meeting crowds of supporters, and pushed states to reopen beauty parlours as the death toll climbed. This week it passed 25,000, and a study suggested it could hit 125,000 by early August. Brazil ranks second in the world for recorded cases – all the more shocking given its strong performance in the previous HIV and Zika virus health crises.Mr Bolsonaro’s friend Donald Trump has now imposed a travel ban on non-US citizens coming from Brazil. Yet the US is leading the world for coronavirus cases and fatalities, with 100,000 deaths, and the toll is rising as the lockdown eases. Mr Trump brushed aside warnings of the approaching crisis, failed to prepare his country and has pushed for reopening in his desperation to see some improvement in economic conditions ahead of November’s elections. Third in the tally of confirmed cases is Russia, where Vladimir Putin announced an end to the lockdown he imposed at the end of March even as infections hit a record high. More than 375,000 have now tested positive, though the death toll remains strikingly – many say suspiciously – low. Though officials claim the rate of infections has begun to slow, the polls suggest that the Russian president, like Mr Trump and Mr Bolsonaro, is now paying a political price.India is further behind, with around 150,000 cases, but catching up fast. The disastrous failure of Narendra Modi, the prime minister, to address the needs of millions of migrant workers when imposing lockdown created a humanitarian crisis and helped to facilitate the disease’s spread through the country. Now he is easing restrictions without introducing other effective measures such as test and trace, effectively telling Indians that they must just accept the risk.Last week, the World Health Organization noted that these four countries accounted for two-thirds of all new cases. Instead of prioritising saving lives while finding ways to ameliorate the suffering caused by lockdowns, leaders have made the same cynical gamble: taking the shortest route to reopening their economies, blaming anyone more cautious for the lost jobs and hungry households – and anyone convenient for the death toll resulting from their own inaction.Abandoned by their national leaders, many states, cities, businesses and institutions have taken matters into their own hands to reduce the spread of the disease. So have individuals and communities. In Brazil’s favelas, community organisers and volunteers are organising public information campaigns and hiring private medical teams.These welcome efforts may reduce the damage, but they cannot avert it entirely – as the rising death tolls show. These men have sold a cult of strength that mocks and dismisses the weak, yet are too feeble to shoulder the burden of responsibility. They use their power to protect not their countries but themselves. Will they ultimately pay, as their people have?

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