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Economy

Economy

The Many Paradoxes Of Cuba's Eternal Milk Shortages

Milk shortages are not new in Cuba, where the state pays producers less for their milk than what they can make by selling it on the black market.

HAVANA — "There is no milk" ceased to be a repeated phrase on the island, because everyone knows it and, probably, by now they have resigned themselves.

Children under seven and the elderly with medical diets don’t receive it with the necessary frequency, even if they are the only sectors of the population with the right to acquire it through a government subsidy.

Because there simply is no milk in Cuba.

The rest of Cubans must buy it in stores in freely convertible currency (MLC). However, powdered or fluid milk hasn't been available in stores in MLC for months. Last time, at the beginning of the year, the price of a bag of 1 to 1.2 kilograms was between 6 and 8 MLC ($6-8).

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Far Out, Far East: Meet North Korea's Biggest Booster In Taiwan

"Taiwanese would laugh at the leader worship of the North Koreans, but wasn't that what we did in the days of Chiang Kai-shek?"

TAIPEI — On the evening of April 15, a crowd of nearly 100 people eagerly swarmed inside an ordinary building in Taipei's Ximending neighborhood. The occasion? The "Sun Festival", which commemorates the birthday of the first leader of North Korea, Kim Il Sung, and one of the most important holidays each year.

The venue was decorated in a North Korean style, with DPRK flags and photos of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il visible all around, while the tables displayed North Korean-made noodles, biscuits, tins, soaps, cigarettes and toy rifles.

Most attendees were in their 20s and 30s, with males outnumbering females by about 2-to-1. There were couples, friends and even a family with children. Everyone who attended received a small North Korean flag, two slices of Korean fried green bean cake on a paper plate and a portion of Korean seaweed rice rolls.

In addition to the "North Korean Lifestyle Exhibition" as a selling point, the event also featured a speaker recounting his travels to the country. And just before the talk began, the speaker invited all participants to stand up, played the North Korean national anthem and then led them in a bow to the statue of Kim Il Sung.

Hung Hao, the organizer for this event, is also the manager of the Facebook page "DPRK Business News." The page now has more than 33,000 followers, but Hung's business is more than that: on his bilingual business cards, he details the other services that include investment opportunities in the DPRK, business missions and contacts, business information and consultation, the import and export of DPRK goods from Taiwan.

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How Airbnb Created A Homeless Crisis In An Idyllic Australian Town

In the bohemian Australian seaside town of Byron Bay, rents are now higher than Sydney or Melbourne. And as Airbnb takes its toll, this small town has almost as many homeless people as Sydney.

BYRON BAY — It's a scene that is repeated almost every evening. Small groups form on the seafront, some take out a guitar around an improvised campfire among the rocks, a few acrobats hypnotize passers-by by twirling fiery bolas, and most clink glasses over a few beers, modestly covered by paper bags. They are all there to admire the sun setting behind the mountains bordering the northern tip of the beach, which stretches for about 30 kilometers, tinting the sky with shades ranging from pale pink to scarlet red.

Located at the eastern tip of Australia, an ideal geographical position where very beautiful waves are formed, Byron Bay, in New South Wales, is one of the most popular destinations for surfers. It is also home to one of the oldest surf clubs in the country, created more than a century ago, in 1907.

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1970s China Revisited? Venezuela's "Special Economic Zones" Are A Desperate Scam

Venezuela is to create free economic zones to attract foreign capital into the Venezuelan economy, but who would take "clean" money to a lawless land run by rapacious revolutionaries?

-OpEd-

With full pomp and surrounded by flatterers and opportunists purporting to be Venezuela's new breed of businessmen, President Nicolás Maduro recently announced the promulgation of a law to create Special Economic Zones (SEZs). The concept is from communist China, which began implementing it in 1970 as part of the economic modernization plans associated with its late leader, Deng Xiaoping — a response to the hardships and shortages suffered earlier under Chairman Mao.

SEZs differed from the rest of China's territory for enjoying more liberal norms and fewer restrictions on production or the arrival of direct foreign investment.

That is what Maduro's regime claims it wants to do: attract foreign capital. He expects to succeed even after wasting over a trillion U.S. dollars' worth of oil revenues, shrinking the economy 90% and confiscating thousands of businesses. They declare that Venezuela needs investments, as if this were a revelation and shortages were a new problem, somehow unrelated to 20 years of misrule by himself and his ally and predecessor Hugo Chavez.

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Economy
Alexis Gaches

Outputs To Outcomes: Why It’s Time To Stop Measuring Productivity

Initially used to measure the link between exploited resources and final results in the industrial production process, the concept of productivity is the most widely used economic indicator. It is also sorely out-of-date.

Two hundred and fifty years after the beginning of industrialization, a new revolution is on: the digital one. If the automation of almost all production has led workers to turn to knowledge-based jobs, the concept of productivity is still anchored in management culture. But it is time to question the relevance of an evaluation of intellectual work through the prism of productivity.

Let’s take the example of a writer able to write two mediocre books in the same amount of time they would need to write one very good book. Two books means twice as much output, so a higher productivity rate. But since one good book sells better, their publisher will likely prefer quality over quantity. In this case, applying a productionist approach would be counterproductive.

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Green
Angelo Mastrandrea

Where Everyone's Rationing Water  — Except The Coca-Cola Plant

In the northern Italian region of Veneto, drought has forced half the municipalities to ration water resources. In contrast, the region's Coca-Cola plant has upped production, using even more water that it gets for a cheap price.

NOGARA — On the morning of Sat., July 9, several hundred activists from the Rise Up 4 Climate Justice movement arrived at the Nogara train station from all over the Veneto region, in northeastern Italy, and then walked to the town's industrial area. They were headed to the local Coca-Cola plant to protest its "extractivist" policies, which are based on hoarding resources at the expense of the local community.

In the Verona region, drought has caused a severe water crisis that has forced half of the municipalities to restrict water use. On the other hand, Coca-Cola, which uses water as its main raw material, has not slowed production.

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Economy
Nansalmaa Oyunchimeg, Myagmarsuren Battur

Mongolia, How The "Switch To Austerity” Sparked A National Uprising

The Asian country is experiencing record inflation and soaring food costs as imports dry up due to the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

ULAANBAATAR — In the shadows of an immense statue of Chinggis Khaan, the founder of the Mongol empire, thousands gather. They stand outside the Government Palace to demand officials remedy the ever-increasing cost of living.

A young demonstrator holds up a mirror, asking if Mongolian government officials can bear to look themselves in the face, while others chant “Do your job” during the two-day dissent in April. The protest signals a breaking point for citizens who struggle to keep up with rising costs. They accuse the government of neglecting its duty to remedy the situation and forcing people to consider fleeing the country.

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Economy
Thayalini Indrakularasa

Sri Lanka: How Protecting The Environment Is Killing Agriculture

When Sri Lanka banned agrochemicals last year, the law’s impact on the island’s ability to feed itself was immediately evident. As political upheaval continues in the capital, here's a related back story in the countryside with global implications.

CHEDDIKULAM, SRI LANKA — Sellan Yogarasa returned to Sri Lanka in 2014, after more than two decades of exile in India. He leased nine acres of agricultural land and began growing rice, a staple food for the island’s 22 million inhabitants. A harvest typically yielded about 288 bags of paddy, each weighing 25 kilograms (55 pounds), enough for a decent livelihood. But overnight this calculus crumbled for Sellan — and for many others in the Sri Lankan labor force, over a third of whom are involved in the paddy sector.

In May 2021, the government banned agrochemicals, with the professed aim of becoming the world’s first country free of chemical fertilizer. A year on, as the country reaps the consequences of that decision — while also grappling with a broader economic crisis that has led to warnings of an impending food shortage and set off the past month of political upheaval.

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Economy
Thomas Straubhaar

Why The Era Of Low-Cost Air Travel Must End

Many of us have become accustomed to cheap flights, but as prices spiral, it's time to ask about their true cost. And politicians' plan to bring in cheap labor to keep down prices is doomed to fail.

-Analysis-

BERLIN — You get what you pay for. It’s a cliché, but it’s true. It is hypocritical for passengers to complain about the chaos that has dominated airports since the start of the holiday season. These problems could easily have been predicted.

No one can seriously believe that a business model whereby passengers are transported from A to B for such a ridiculously low price is sustainable. When flights cost a fraction of a train ticket, something must be wrong. Costs are either being disregarded or passed on to someone else.

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Economy
Lila Paulou and McKenna Johnson

Food Shortages Around The World, Product By Product

The war in Ukraine and the climate crisis have been devastating for food production. Here's a look at some of the traditional foods from around the world that might be hard to find on supermarket shelves.

The consequences of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia have been far-reaching. A Russian blockade of the Black Sea has meant Ukraine, known as “Europe’s breadbasket,” has been unable to export much of its huge harvests of wheat, barley and sunflower oil.

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So even those thousands of miles from the battlefields have been hit by the soaring prices of basic necessities.

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Economy
Benjamin Quénelle

How Much Longer Can The Russian Economy Survive Sanctions?

The head of the Kremlin boasted at the recent forum in St. Petersburg International Economic Forum about Russia’s economic resilience against Western sanctions. But behind the scenes, Russian business leaders tell a different story.

-Analysis-

MOSCOW — "The most effective sanction to weaken the Kremlin? Not to target us and punish us, but to give us visas instead ... to abandon the sinking the ship!" This businessman's iconoclastic perspective embodies the anxiety one could detect percolating just below the surface at the "Russian Davos" Forum in St. Petersburg last week.

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Officially called the "International" Economic Forum, the annual event organized by Vladimir Putin is meant to attract foreign investors — but this year, the elite of the national business community were cut off from the rest of the world. "Just among Russians... And forced to line up behind the regime and its economic strategies that lead us to a dead end," says the same source, a Russian manager in one of the main state-owned companies.

Like so many others, this man in his 40s, a typical representative of the new upper middle class, with a foreign passport in hand, educated in the West, liberal and multilingual, discovered his name on the lists of Western sanctions. Directly or indirectly, a large part of the Russian business world has been caught up in the European and U.S. sanctions against Moscow.

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Economy
Christoph B. Schiltz

Europe's "Freeze And Seize" Hits Russian Oligarchs For 12.5 Billion

According to the EU Commission, the amount of confiscated Russian assets has doubled since April, German daily Die Welt reveals, including yachts, real estate, artwork and more.

BRUSSELS — The European Union has made significant progress in sanctioning Russian oligarchs, nearly doubling the seizure and freezing of assets in the last month alone. So far, more than 12.5 billion euros worth of luxury yachts, helicopters, paintings, real estate property and other assets have been seized or frozen from people on sanctions lists for supporting Putin's war of aggression, a top EU official has told Die Welt.

The European Union has collected half of this amount since April alone. "The amount of frozen assets of Russian oligarchs has almost doubled from 6.7 billion euros in April to currently just over 12.5 billion euros," the European Commission spokesman for justice Christian Wiegand confirmed.

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