Archive Month: September 2017

An official survey released Saturday said that China’s factory activity expanded in September at the fastest pace in five years, as the country’s vital manufacturing sector stepped up production to meet strong demand.

The official manufacturing purchasing managers’ index rose to 52.4 in September, up from 51.7 in the previous month and the highest level since April 2012.

The report by the Federation of Logistics & Purchasing said production, new export orders and overall new orders grew at a faster pace for the month.

“The manufacturing sector continues to maintain a steady development trend and the pace is accelerating,” said Zhao Qinghe, senior statistician at the National Bureau of Statistics, which released the data. Zhao noted that the report found both domestic and global demand have improved.

However, in a separate report, the private Caixin/Markit manufacturing PMI slipped to 51.0 from 51.6, as factories reported that production and new orders expanded at slower rates last month.

Both indexes are based on a 100-point scale with 50 dividing expansion from contraction. But the federation’s report is focused more on large, state-owned enterprises while the Caixin survey is weighted to smaller, private companies.

Another official index covering non-manufacturing activity rebounded after two months of contraction, rising to 55.4 last month from 53.4 in August. That indicates momentum is picking up again in China’s service sector.

The reports come ahead of the ruling Communist Party’s twice-a-decade congress set for next month, where top leaders will be reshuffled and authorities will outline economic policies.

Earlier this month, rating agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded China’s credit rating on government borrowing, citing rising debt levels that raise financial risks and could drag on economic growth.

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Untangling US Tax System

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Nearly all U.S. taxpayers say American tax law, which runs tens of thousands of pages, is an incredibly complicated, annoying mess. And there is no agreement on how to fix the problem. Republicans recently outlined a new effort they say will be clearer, fairer and helpful to the economy. Critics say the Republican plan would cut taxes for the rich and increase the U.S. debt. VOA’s Jim Randle looks at how the system is supposed to work, and what critics say is wrong.

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Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, has a message for the world’s central bankers: Don’t be Luddites.

Addressing a conference in London on Friday, Lagarde said virtual currencies, which are created and exchanged without the involvement of banks or government, could in time be embraced by countries with unstable currencies or weak domestic institutions.

“In many ways, virtual currencies might just give existing currencies and monetary policy a run for their money,” she said. “The best response by central bankers is to continue running effective monetary policy, while being open to fresh ideas and new demands, as economies evolve.”

The most high-profile of these digital currencies is bitcoin, which like others can be converted to cash when deposited into accounts at prices set in online trading. Its price has been volatile, soaring over recent years but falling sharply earlier this month on reports that China will order all bitcoin exchanges to close and one of the world’s most high-profile investment bankers said bitcoin was a fraud.

For now, Lagarde said, digital currencies are unlikely to replace traditional ones, as they are “too volatile, too risky, too energy intensive and because the underlying technologies are not yet scalable.”

High-profile hacks have also not helped, she noted. One notable failure was that of the Mt. Gox exchange in Japan in February 2014, in which about 850,000 bitcoins were lost, possibly to hackers. Following that, Japan enacted new laws to regulate bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies.

But in time, she argued, technological innovations could address some of the issues that have kept a lid on the appeal of digital currencies.

“Not so long ago, some experts argued that personal computers would never be adopted, and that tablets would only be used as expensive coffee trays, so I think it may not be wise to dismiss virtual currencies,” Lagarde said.

Lagarde’s comments appear at odds with the views of JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who this month described bitcoin as a fraud and said he’d fire any of his traders if they caught dealing in the digital currency.

In a speech laying out the potential changes wrought by financial innovations, Lagarde also said that over the next generation, “machines will almost certainly play a larger role” in helping policymakers, offering real-time forecasts, spotting bubbles, and uncovering complex financial linkages.

“As one of your fellow Londoners – Mary Poppins – might have said: bring along a pinch of imagination!”

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The government has fined U.S. tree-trimming company a record $95 million for knowingly hiring undocumented immigrants.

U.S. prosecutors said the fine against Philadelphia-based Asplundh Tree Expert Co. was the largest criminal penalty ever imposed in an immigration case.

Prosecutors said company managers deliberately looked the other way while supervisors knowingly hired thousands of undocumented workers between 2010 and 2014.

The prosecutors said this gave Asplundh a large workforce ready to take on emergency weather-related jobs across the country, putting its competitors at an unfair disadvantage.

A federal investigation into Asplundh was opened in 2015 and the company said it had since taken a number of steps to end “the practices of the past.”

“We accept responsibility for the charges as outlined, and we apologize to our customers, associates and all other stakeholders,” company Chairman Scott Asplundh said.

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Американська компанія ядерної енергетики Westinghouse Electric Company і українське ПАТ «Турбоатом» підписали угоду, що передбачає збільшення потужності атомних електростанцій в Україні, повідомила компанія зі США.

Як мовиться в повідомленні, Westinghouse і «Турбоатом» підписали розширений меморандум про порозуміння про партнерство в координації і співпраці задля цієї мети.

Як заявив із цього приводу Азіз Даґ, віце-президент і директор-розпорядник Westinghouse щодо Північної і Східної Європи, стратегічна співпраця його компанії з «Турбоатомом» є чудовим зразком того, як американська компанія виконує свої зобов’язання перед українським «Енергоатомом», що є її клієнтом, надати їй технічні рішення для подальшого поліпшення генерувальних здатностей, ефективності і безпеки українських АЕС.

«Ми також радо чекаємо на співпрацю з іншими українськими компаніями для підтримки нашої діяльності, пов’язаної з потенційним проектом «Енергетичний міст» в Україні», – додав він.

Як поінформувала американська компанія, Міністерство енергетики і вугільної промисловості України нещодавно схвалило аналіз «Енергетичного мосту Україна – ЄС», що має бути втілений у партнерстві між державними і приватними компаніями. Задля здійснення цього проекту необхідно, серед іншого, значно посилити виробництво електроенергії наявними в української національної енергогенерувальної компанії «Енергоатом» реакторами ВВЕР-1000, яких в Україні працює 13.

«Турбоатом», що є однією з провідних у світі компаній для розробки і виробництва турбін для атомних, теплових і гідроелектростанцій, повідомив про подію, скопіювавши допис у фейсбуці прем’єр-міністра України Володимира Гройсмана.

«Сьогодні в Харкові на ПАТ «Турбоатом» підписали контрактів на 5,5 мільярда гривень. Вони стосуються постачання обладнання на українські АЕС та ТЕС, а також підвищення потужності діючих енергоблоків українських АЕС у взаємодії з компанією Westinghouse Electric Sweden AB. Для економіки це означає, що у найближчі роки на щонайменше 10 українських підприємствах будуть завантажені роботою близько 15 тисяч людей», – написав прем’єр.

Компанія Westinghouse працює на українському ринку з 1992 року, зокрема, над поліпшенням безпеки українських атомних установок, і вже майже 20 років має в Харкові спільне підприємство, працівники якого за стандартами ЄС і США працюють над продуктами для українського ринку. Також Westinghouse Electric Company через свій підрозділ у Швеції надає ядерне пальне для реакторів радянського проекту ВВЕР, щоб подолати монополію Росії на це пальне. Зокрема, в Україні вона забезпечує пальним 13 реакторів ВВЕР-1000, які виробляють близько 30 відсотків від усієї електроенергії в Україні.

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Senegalese start-ups are testing a fledgling market for online music platforms in French-speaking West Africa, where interest in digital entertainment is growing but a lack of credit cards has prevented big players from making inroads.

Long celebrated in Europe for their contribution to “world” music – with Mali’s Salif Keita, Senegal’s Youssou N’Dour and Benin’s Angelique Kidjo household names in trendy bars – West African musicians have struggled to make money back home, where poverty is widespread and music piracy rampant.

Online music providers such as Apple’s download store iTunes and streaming service Spotify are either unavailable – no one can sign up for Spotify in Africa yet – or require a credit card or bank account, which most West Africans lack.

But smartphone use is surging and entrepreneurs say there is latent demand for platforms tailored to Francophone West Africa, whose Malian “desert blues,” Ivorian “zouglou” and Senegalese “mbalax” cross African borders but are only profitable in Europe, via download and streaming services.

“We started by saying, look, there is a void. Because digital distribution products are made in Europe or the U.S., for Europeans and Americans.” said Moustapha Diop, the founder and CEO of MusikBi, “The Music” in the local Wolof language, a download store launched in 2016.

MusikBi, like its rivals, is small and cash strapped, but with more than 10,000 users, Diop sees potential.

The company received a boost in May when Senegalese-American singer Akon bought 50 percent of it, which Diop says will allow the company to start a new marketing campaign.

MusikBi and rival JokkoText allow users to purchase songs by text message and pay with phone credit, mobile money or cash transfers. Both want to expand throughout West Africa.

Many of the new industry entrants like MusikBi and JokkoText are based in Dakar, which is an emerging tech start-up hub for Francophone West Africa, partly thanks to the fact it has enjoyed relative political and economic stability compared with most of its neighbors.

On the streaming front, Deedo, created by a Senegalese national in France and backed by French bank BPI, will launch in Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast and France next month, and will offer similar payment options. Senegalese hip-hop group Daara J plans o start a streaming platform next year.

There is scant industry presence elsewhere in the region except in Anglophone Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation.

Pirates to Payers

Every evening young people jog down Dakar’s streets with headphones in their ears. Most download music illegally online or buy pirated CDs and USB memory sticks in street markets.

Convincing them to pay for content is a challenge, but not an insurmountable one, analysts say.

“Experience shows that people are willing to pay for convenience,” said David Price, director of insight and analysis at London-based industry federation IFPI.

“If you give them something attractive and affordable, they stop pirating,” he said, adding that local platforms have gained followings in Latin America and India.

France’s Deezer has also targeted the region in partnership with mobile operator Tigo, but has not gained a large following. Deedo meanwhile plans to launch a version of its site in Pulaar, one of West Africa’s most widely spoken a languages, founder Awa Girard told Reuters.

Senegalese singer Sahad Sarr told Reuters he had sold some songs on MusikBi and was excited about Deedo, but added: “The culture here is not to buy music online. Change will be slow.”

Most of his listeners on Spotify and other platforms are Senegalese people living in Europe or North America, he said.

At Dakar’s main university, students showed Reuters the many websites they use to download music illegally.

Some said they would pay for a good service, but others were less convinced, like 22-year-old Macodou Loum. “Between two choices, free and not free, we will choose the free one,” he said.

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What’s your dream car to drive? Saudi women are asking that question after the kingdom announced that females would be granted licenses and be allowed to drive for the first time.

An Arabic Twitter hashtag asking women what car they want to drive already had more than 22,000 responses on Thursday. Some users shared images of black matte luxury SUVs. Others teased with images of metallic candy pink-colored cars. A few shared images of cars encrusted with sparkly crystals.

Car makers see an opportunity to rev up sales in Saudi Arabia when the royal decree comes into effect next June. But any gains are likely to be gradual due to a mix of societal and economic factors. Women who need to get around already have cars driven by chauffeurs. And many women haven’t driven in years, meaning the next wave of buyers could be the young.

That didn’t keep Ford and Volkswagen from trying to make the most of the moment. They quickly released ads on Twitter congratulating Saudi women on the right to drive. Saudi Arabia had been the only country in the world to still bar women from getting behind the wheel.

American automaker Ford’s ad showed only the eyes of a woman in a rearview mirror with the words: “Welcome to the driver’s seat .” German automaker Volkwagen’s ad showed two hands on a steering wheel with intricate henna designs on the fingers with the words: “My turn.”

Checking that optimism will be the reality that many women will continue to need the approval of a man to buy a car or take on new responsibilities.

“The family has always operated on the basis of dependency so that’s a big core restructuring of the family unit,” said Madeha Aljroush, who took part in Saudi Arabia’s first campaign to push for the right to drive. In that 1990 protest, 47 women were arrested. They faced stigmatization, lost their jobs and were barred from traveling abroad for a year.

“I had no idea it was going to take like 27 years, but anyway, we need to celebrate,” Aljroush said.

That won’t entail buying a new car, though. She hasn’t driven in nearly 30 years, she says, and her two daughters still need to learn how to operate a vehicle.

Allowing women the right to drive is seen as a major milestone for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, but also for the Saudi economy. The kingdom’s young and powerful crown prince is behind a wide-reaching plan to transform the country and wean it off its reliance on government spending from oil exports.

Allowing women to drive helps to ensure stronger female participation in the workforce and boosts household incomes. It can also save women the money they now spend on drivers and transportation.

The Saudi government says there are 1.37 million drivers in the country, with the majority from South Asian countries working as drivers for Saudi women. The drivers earn an average monthly salary of around $400, but the costs of having a driver are much higher. Families must also pay for their entry permits, residence permits, accommodation, flight tickets and recruitment.

Rebecca Lindland, an analyst for Cox Automotive in the U.S. who has studied the Saudi Arabian market, said families with the means likely already have enough vehicles because women are already being transported in them, with male drivers. Those women could simply start driving the vehicles they already own.

There are also many Saudi families who do not have the money to buy new cars.

“The idea that 15 million women are going to go out and buy a car is not realistic,” Lindland said. “We may not have incremental sales because those that are already with more freedoms already probably have access to a car.”

The industry consulting firm LMC Automotive sees only a small boost in sales next year due to the royal decree, coinciding with a small recovery in sales from a slump.

The Saudi market peaked at 685,000 new vehicles sold in 2015, falling to under 600,000 in 2016, and is forecast to finish this year at 530,000. LMC had predicted a modest recovery next year based on an improved economy and sees a little added boost from women drivers.

Although Saudi Arabia has a reputation for liking luxury goods, mainstream brands dominate the car market with a 93 percent share of sales, according to LMC. Hyundai was the top passenger car brand with a 28.6 percent share of the market, followed closely by Toyota at 28.4 percent and Kia at 8.3 percent, the company said.

There are also societal factors to consider. Even if the law allows women to drive, many will still need their fathers or husbands to buy a car.

A male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia gives men final say over women’s lives, from their ability to travel abroad to marriage. Women often are asked to have the written permission of man to rent an apartment, buy a car or open a bank account.

“If you don’t have credit, if you don’t have money, your male guardian will be the one to decide whether you buy a car or not,” Lindland said.

While car sales might rise in the long-term, ride hailing apps like Uber and local rival Careem could see revenues decline. Female passengers make up the majority of the country’s ride-hailing customers.

To celebrate Tuesday’s decree, several Saudi women posted images on social media deleting their ride sharing apps.

The two companies, however, have seen strong investments from Saudi Arabia. Last year, the Saudi government’s sovereign wealth fund invested $3.5 billion in Uber. This year, an investment firm chaired by billionaire Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal invested $62 million in Dubai-based Careem.

Aljroush says the right to drive will not immediately change women’s lives, but it will change family dynamics at home and will change the economy.

“Men used to leave work to pick up the kids. The whole country was paralyzed,” she said. “It’s a restructuring of how we think, how we operate, how we move.”

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A Supreme Court with a reconstituted conservative majority is taking on a new case with the potential to financially cripple Democratic-leaning labor unions that represent government workers. The justices deadlocked 4-4 in a similar case last year.


The high court agreed Thursday to again consider a free-speech challenge from workers who object to paying money to unions they don’t support.


The court could decide to overturn a 40-year-old Supreme Court ruling that allows public sector unions to collect fees from non-members to cover the costs of negotiating contracts for all employees.


The latest appeal is from a state employee in Illinois. It was filed at the Supreme Court just two months after Justice Neil Gorsuch filled the high court seat that had been vacant since Justice Antonin Scalia’s death.


The stakes are high. Union membership in the U.S. declined to just 10.7 percent of the workforce last year, and the ranks of private-sector unions have been especially hard hit.


About half of all union members now work for federal, state and local governments, and many are in states like Illinois, New York, and California that are largely Democratic and seen as friendly toward unions.


The Illinois case involves Mark Janus, a state employee who says Illinois law violates his free speech rights by requiring him to pay fees subsidizing a union he doesn’t support, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. About half the states have similar laws covering so-called “fair share” fees that cover bargaining costs for non-members.


Janus is seeking to overturn a 1977 Supreme Court case, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, that said public workers who refuse to join a union can still be required to pay for bargaining costs, as long as the fees don’t go toward political purposes. The arrangement was supposed to prevent non-members from “free riding,” since the union has a legal duty to represent all workers.


A federal appeals court in Chicago rejected Janus’ claim in March. Gorsuch was confirmed in April and the appeal was filed in June.


The justices will hear argument in the winter.

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Equifax Inc promised to make it easier for consumers to control access to their credit records in the wake of the company’s massive breach after the top U.S. consumer financial watchdog called on the industry to introduce such a system.

Equifax’s interim chief executive officer, Paulino do Rego Barros Jr., vowed to introduce a free service by Jan. 31 that will let consumers control access to their own credit records.

Barros, who was named interim CEO on Tuesday as Richard Smith stepped down from the post amid mounting criticism over the handling of the cyber attack, also apologized for providing inadequate support to consumers seeking information after the breach was disclosed on Sept. 7. He promised to add call-center representatives and bolster a breach-response website.

“I have heard the frustration and fear. I know we have to do a better job of helping you,” Barros said in a statement published in The Wall Street Journal.

Equifax announced the free credit freeze service after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) director, Richard Cordray, told CNBC earlier in the day that the agency would beef up oversight of Equifax and its rivals.

“The old days of just doing what they want and being subject to lawsuits now and then are over,” Cordray said.

He also called for implementing a scheme of preventive credit monitoring.

“They are going to have to accept that. They are going to have to welcome it. They are going to have to be very forthcoming,” Cordray said.

The Equifax hack compromised sensitive data of up to 143 million Americans and prompted investigations by lawmakers and regulators, including the New York Department of Financial Services (DFS), which issued a subpoena to Equifax demanding more information about the breach.

Federal laws give the CFPB the power to supervise and examine large credit-reporting firms to ensure the quality of information they provide. In January, the CFPB fined TransUnion and Equifax $5.5 million in total for deceiving customers about the usefulness and cost of their credit scores.

Cordray called for expanded powers to cover data security to prevent breaches and suggested placing monitors inside credit reporting firms, borrowing a tactic from the regulatory regime for banks.

The CFPB is working with the Federal Trade Commission and New York’s DFS on a new regulatory framework, Cordray said. He also called for Congress to tighten oversight of the industry.

TransUnion said in a statement that it had “long been subject to regulatory oversight from state and federal regulators including the CFPB.”

Experian did not respond to requests for comment.

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Saudi Arabia’s decision to lift its ban on women driving cars may help to restore sales growth in an auto market dented by the economic fallout from weak oil prices, handing an opportunity to importers of luxury cars and sport utility vehicles.

Carmakers joined governments in welcoming the order by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman that new rules allowing women to drive be drawn up within 30 days and implemented by June 2018, removing a stain on the country’s international image.

“Congratulations to all Saudi women who will now be able to drive,” Nissan said in a Twitter post depicting a license plate bearing the registration “2018 GRL.” BMW, whose X5 SUV is the group’s Middle East top-seller, also saluted the move.

Midrange brands dominate the Saudi market, with Toyota, Hyundai-Kia and Nissan together commanding a 71 percent share of sales.

Market had shrunk

That market has shrunk by about a quarter from a peak of 858,000 light vehicles in 2015 to an expected 644,000 this year, reflecting the broader economic slowdown. But the rule change adds almost 9 million potential drivers, including 2.7 million resident non-Saudi women, Merrill Lynch has calculated.

“We expect demand to rise again on news that women will be allowed to drive,” said a senior executive at Jeddah-based auto distributor Naghi Motors, whose brand portfolio includes BMW, Mini, Hyundai, Rolls Royce and Jaguar Land Rover models.

The arrival of women drivers could lift Saudi car sales by 15-20 percent annually, leading forecaster LMC Automotive predicts, as the kingdom’s “car density” of 220 vehicles per 1,000 adults rises to about 300 in 2025, closing the gap with the neighboring United Arab Emirates.

A middle- to upper-class Saudi family typically has two vehicles, one driven by the man of the house and a second car in which a full-time chauffeur transports his wife and children.

The rule change could spell bad news for some of the 1.3 million men employed as chauffeurs in the kingdom, including a large share of its migrant workforce, while boosting upscale car sales as households upgrade for their new drivers.

Entire market likely to benefit

“The move to allow women to drive is set to benefit the entire market,” LMC analyst David Oakley said. “But we might expect to see a disproportionately positive impact on super-premium brands.”

Luxury brands including Lamborghini and Bentley are about to launch SUVs, a vehicle category that has proved popular among women and accounts for more than 1 in 5 cars sold in Saudi Arabia.

Welcoming the announcement, British-based Aston Martin said it was well timed for the arrival of the James Bond-associated sports car maker’s DBX model, due in 2019.

“The SUV crossover boom across all segments has been powered by women,” spokesman Simon Sproule said.

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President Donald Trump said on Wednesday a foreign leader told him at the United Nations last week that the country would soon announce plans to build or expand five automobile industry factories in the United States.

“I just left the United Nations last week and I was told by one of the most powerful leaders of the world that they are going to be announcing in the not too distant future five major factories in the United States, between increasing and new, five,” Trump said in a speech on tax reform in Indianapolis.

He added the factories were in the automotive industry.

He did not name the country. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Automakers in Japan and Germany have both announced investments in the United States this year, with companies coming under pressure from Trump’s bid to curb imports and hire more workers to build cars and trucks in the country.

Investments to expand U.S. vehicle production capacity also reflect intensified competition for market share in the world’s most profitable vehicle market. In August, Toyota Motor Corp said it would build a $1.6 billion U.S. assembly plant with Mazda Motor Corp.

Toyota also said this week it was investing nearly $375 million in five U.S. manufacturing plants to support U.S. production of hybrid powertrains.

Last week, German automaker Daimler AG said it would spend $1 billion to expand its Mercedes Benz operations near Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to produce batteries and electric sport utility vehicles and create more than 600 jobs.

Rival German luxury automaker BMW AG said in June it would expand its U.S. factory in South Carolina, adding 1,000 jobs. And last month, Volkswagen AG’s brand president Herbert Diess said the company expected to bring electric SUV production to the United States and could add production at its Tennessee plant.

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The South American trade bloc Mercosur could seek trade deals with Canada, Australia and New Zealand this year, an Argentine official said Wednesday, as largest members Brazil and Argentina seek to open their economies.

Mercosur, which also includes Uruguay and Paraguay, is working with the European Union to finalize the political framework for a trade deal this year, at a time when the United States under President Donald Trump has been shying away from trade.

“There is a possibility that Mercosur starts negotiations with Canada, Australia and New Zealand this year,” Argentine Commerce Secretary Miguel Braun said at the Thomson Reuters Economic and Business forum in Buenos Aires.

“Integrating ourselves with these countries takes us in the direction we want to go,” he said, pointing to developed economies with high salaries. Argentina alone is seeking a trade agreement with Mexico, and Braun said it was also working on a trade agreement with Chile that would “deepen what we already have.”

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said in New York last week that Santiago was finishing a trade liberalization agreement with Buenos Aires to boost trade and open opportunities for investors.

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Weather extremes and air pollution from burning fossil fuels cost the United States $240 billion a year in the past decade, according to a report Wednesday that urged President Donald Trump to do more to combat climate change.

This year is likely to be the most expensive on record, with an estimated $300 billion in losses from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria and a spate of wildfires in Western states in the past two months, it said.

“The evidence is undeniable: The more fossil fuels we burn, the faster the climate continues to change,” leading scientists wrote in the study published by the nonprofit Universal Ecological Fund.

Costs to human health from air pollution caused by fossil fuels averaged $188 billion a year over the past decade, it estimated, while losses from weather extremes such as droughts, heat waves and floods averaged $52 billion.

Trump could curb the $240 billion cost, equivalent to 1.2 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, by revising his plans to promote the U.S. coal industry and to pull out of the 195-nation Paris climate agreement, it said.

“We are not saying that all [weather extremes] are due to human activity, but these are the sorts of events that seem to be increasing in intensity,” co-author Robert Watson, a former head of the U.N. panel of climate scientists, told Reuters.

Higher ocean temperatures, for instance, mean more moisture in the air that can fuel hurricanes.

Events on the rise

And, in a sign of increasing risks, there were 92 extreme weather events that caused damage exceeding $1 billion in the United States in the decade ending in 2016, compared with 38 in the 1990s and 21 in the 1980s.

The combined cost of extreme weather and pollution from fossil fuels would climb to $360 billion a year in the next decade, the study said. Trump’s pro-coal policies could mean more air pollution, reversing recent improvements in air quality.

Last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency accused scientists who linked record extreme rainfall from Tropical Storm Harvey to man-made climate change as trying to “politicize an ongoing tragedy.”

Wednesday’s study has been in the works for months, said co-author James McCarthy, professor of oceanography at Harvard University. He said there was widening evidence that a shift from fossil fuels made economic sense.

“Why is Iowa, why is Oklahoma, why is Kansas, why is Texas investing in wind energy? Not because they are interested in sea level rise or ocean temperatures but because it’s economically sensible,” he told Reuters.

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In Christchurch in New Zealand, the damage caused by a 2011 earthquake remains evident with metal girders and scaffolding on every street and a near constant beep of construction vehicles.

The earthquake was devastating for the city: Nearly 200 people were killed and up to 100,000 buildings were damaged and 10,000 needed to be demolished.

But Mayor Lianne Dalziel said the disaster had given rise to a new sense of community in New Zealand’s third-largest city which on Wednesday began hosting the Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF), an annual gathering of social entrepreneurs using businesses to do good, with the theme “creating our tomorrow.”

One sector boosting the community and helping drive the city’s regeneration is the coffee industry, with coffee shops found on almost every corner of the city of 370,000 people.

New Zealand boasts more coffee roasters per capita than anywhere else globally, with its coffee shops offering innovations like activated charcoal lattes or turmeric lattes.

A business at the heart of regeneration is C1 Espresso, which was set up in 1996 but was knocked out of business in 2011.

It reopened in 2015 in a former post office in part of central Christchurch, proving to be a catalyst for the re-emergence of business in that area as well as supporting communities vulnerable to natural disasters in other nations.

The venture supports farming in the Pacific island of Samoa, which was hit hard by the 2009 tsunami and subsequently battered by successive cyclones in the years that followed.

“When the earthquake happened, we realized how vulnerable we are when we’d previously thought we were the great White Knight,” C1 owner Sam Crofskey told Reuters.

He initially went to Samoa hoping to convince people to grow coffee, but soon realized it would create a culture of dependency. Instead, he looked at the ingredients that were being grown and thought he could use them in a new line of tea.

Ultimately, he said he was trying to keep families together, describing the dire living conditions faced by some Samoans who leave for jobs in Australia and New Zealand but end up in menial work with every spare bit of money sent home.

Staff with purpose

Crofskey said the idea provided his staff with a sense of purpose, with some even going to Samoa to meet the families and work on the farms.

“The ability of our staff to hold their heads up high because they work here is equally important to what we do in Samoa,” Crofskey said.

C1, which sells salads in old jam jars and bottles its own juices, has helped revitalize one part of the city which was dead at night when the coffee shop re-opened but other businesses are now operating there and the area is on the up.

A 30-minute walk away in the suburb of Addington, another coffee shop is working to help Christchurch residents and slum dwellers and former sex slaves in India after its destiny was also changed by the earthquake.

The Addington Coffee Co-op, based in a former mechanics workshop since 2008, was one of the lucky few to retain access to power in 2011, meaning the cafe became a community hub.

It also proved a lifesaver to those for whom power was essential, such as people needing electric oxygen pumps.

“For us to play a small part offering a helping hand on a city scale is really just in the DNA of our business,” said sales manager Jared Gardiner.

Gardiner used to work in banking but, following a trip to Kolkata where he encountered the slum dwellers of Khal Par, he returned to New Zealand resolved to try to improve lives there.

Now 70 percent of the Addington Coffee Co-op’s profits go back to community initiatives such as the local school and to water, toilet and other projects in Khal Par.

The Co-op has also set up an interest-free loan service and expanded to include a shop selling fair trade products from India and a clothing line importing products made by Freeset, a Kolkata-based company that employs women freed from sex slavery.

Welcoming 1,600 delegates from 45 countries to Christchurch for the ninth edition of the three-day SEWF, Dalziel said the earthquake helped her see what was important in life.

“Sense of purpose creates meaning for individuals, for cities and for whole communities. Christchurch this week is proud to be the global capital of social enterprise,” she said.

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Switzerland is the world’s most competitive economy for a ninth straight year, the Geneva-based World Economic Forum said on Wednesday.

Since suffering a rare blip in 2008, when it was nudged into second place by the United States, the Swiss economy has maintained an efficient but unshakeable grip on the top spot in the WEF annual ranking.

WEF economist Thierry Geiger said Switzerland had a virtuous circle of infrastructure, institutions and education, but at the heart of its success was the way it created and used talent.

“That is really the secret of Switzerland, this ability to innovate, supported by a whole range of enabling factors,” he said.

However, after almost a decade at the top, Switzerland is at risk from complacency and populism. The ageing population could undermine the innovation miracle by shutting the door to foreign talent in one of the referendums that make Swiss law, he said.

“We see a proliferation of such referendums on everything, some of them are kind of dangerous, they could really endanger and jeopardize Switzerland’s prosperity,” Geiger said.

The World Economic Forum, the same organization that runs the Davos meeting of global powerbrokers each January, bases its rankings on a dozen drivers of competitiveness and a survey of business leaders.

“Global competitiveness will be more and more defined by the innovative capacity of a country,” Klaus Schwab, WEF founder and executive chairman, said in a statement.

Besides Switzerland, the top 10 remained the same as a year ago, although there was some shuffling of the order. The United States climbed over Singapore into second place, and Hong Kong jumped three places to sixth, leapfrogging Japan in ninth spot Britain slipped one place to eighth.

Britain has not yet dropped in the rankings because of its Brexit negotiations with the European Union but it is expected to do so, the WEF said.

China inched up one place to 27th, well ahead of 38th-ranked Russia and India, which was in 40th position.

The wooden spoon went to Yemen, a poor country further devastated by civil war, economic collapse, cholera and near-famine conditions, which was in 137th place.

Full List of Top 30 countries:

1. Switzerland

2. United States

3. Singapore

4. Netherlands

5. Germany

6. Hong Kong

7. Sweden

8. United Kingdom

9. Japan

10. Finland

11. Norway

12. Denmark

13. New Zealand

14. Canada

15. Taiwan

16. Israel

17. United Arab Emirates

18. Austria

19. Luxembourg

20. Belgium

21. Australia

22. France

23. Malaysia

24. Ireland

25. Qatar

26. South Korea

27. China

28. Iceland

29. Estonia

30. Saudi Arabia

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