Posts Tagged ‘Singapore’

China says will further open up its economy, slams rising protectionism

November 12, 2018

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said on Monday Beijing will further open up its economy in the face of rising protectionism, as he headed for meetings with Asia-Pacific leaders in Singapore that are expected to focus on trade tensions.

Li’s remarks in an article in Singapore’s Straits Times newspaper, ahead of his arrival in the city-state later in the day, came as Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called for more regional integration, saying multilateralism was under threat from political pressures.

Image result for Li Keqiang, photos

Li Keqiang

“China has opened its door to the world; we will never close it but open it even wider,” Li said in the article, in which he called for an “open world economy” in the face of “rising protectionism and unilateralism”. He did not directly refer to China’s bruising trade war with the United States.

Notably absent from this week’s meetings is U.S. President Donald Trump, who has said several existing multilateral trade deals are unfair, and has railed against China over intellectual property theft, entry barriers to U.S. businesses and a gaping trade deficit.

Vice President Mike Pence will attend instead of Trump, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are among those also expected to join Li and the ten-member member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

It was not clear if Li and Pence will hold separate talks on the sidelines of the meetings, which would be a prelude to a summit scheduled between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the end of the month in Buenos Aires.

The encounter, if it happens, would come on the heels of high-level talks in Washington where the two sides aired their main differences but appeared to attempt controlling the damage to relations that has worsened with tit-for-tat tariffs in recent months.

Meanwhile, in remarks at a business summit on Monday ahead of this week’s meetings, Singapore PM Lee said:

“ASEAN has great potential, but fully realising it depends on whether we choose to become more integrated, and work resolutely towards this goal in a world where multilateralism is fraying under political pressures”.

Lee has previously warned that the U.S.-China trade war could have a “big, negative impact” on Singapore, and the city-state’s central bank has warned it could soon drag on the economy.

On WWI centenary, Macron warns of nationalism
Both Singapore and China are expected to rally support for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) pact now being negotiated, showcased to be the free trade deal that will encompass more than a third of the world’s GDP.

The pact includes 16 countries, including China, India, Japan and South Korea, but not the United States. Li said China would work to “expedite” RCEP negotiations this week.

Also on Monday, the ten-member ASEAN group reached their first ever deal on e-commerce aimed at helping boost cross-border transactions in the region.

Reuters

See also:

Call for open markets as world leaders gather in Singapore

https://www.rappler.com/world/regions/asia-pacific/216490-call-for-open-marekts-asean-summit-2018-singapore

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Calls for open trade to greet Pence as Trump skips Asia summit

November 11, 2018

Asia-Pacific leaders will join the heads of Southeast Asian states this week in Singapore to renew calls for multilateralism and fresh pledges to resolve regional conflicts ranging from the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar to tensions in the South China Sea.

Notably absent when regional powers such as China, Japan and India seek to enlist support for a multilateral trading system will be U.S. President Donald Trump, whose decision to skip the Asia summit has raised questions about his commitment to a regional strategy aimed at checking China’s rise.

Vice President Mike Pence will attend instead of Trump, and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are among those expected to join leaders from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Image result for mike pence, photos

Mike Pence

Li is expected to rally support for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) pact now being negotiated, showcased to be the free trade deal that will encompass more than a third of the world’s GDP.

The pact includes 16 countries, including China, India, Japan and South Korea, but not the United States.

Trump has demanded trade agreements that are fair and enforceable and based on the principle of reciprocity. He has re-negotiated an existing pact with South Korea and the three-way deal with Mexico and Canada, and pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, which involved four Southeast Asian states.

The United States is also in the midst of a bitter trade war with China which has undermined global markets.

China is pushing the RCEP deal – Assistant Foreign Minister Chen Xiaodong told reporters on Thursday it “will be of great significance for deepening regional cooperation, coping with unilateralism and protectionism, and promoting an open, inclusive and rules-based international trading system.”

However, Li is expected to appeal in Singapore for the need for the world’s two largest economies to work together to resolve trade disputes, reiterating commitment made by Beijing’s top leaders last week for market opening and lowering tariffs.

It was not clear if Li and Pence will hold separate talks on the sidelines of the Singapore meetings, which would be a prelude to a summit scheduled between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the end of the month in Buenos Aires.

The encounter, if it happens, would come on the heels of high-level talks in Washington where the two sides aired their main differences but appeared to attempt controlling the damage to relations that has worsened with tit-for-tat tariffs in recent months.

Many of the leaders in Singapore will also meet at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Papua New Guinea next weekend.

ASEAN, which will hold its own summit on Tuesday before being joined by other leaders, also faces the challenge of working through sharp differences over the handling of the Rohingya minority by Myanmar whose military has been accused of “genocidal intent” by the United Nations.

Leader Aung San Suu Kyi is due to attend the Singapore meetings this week while Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, attending his first multilateral summit since returning to power in May, has served notice he has lost faith in the Nobel peace laureate over the issue.

The Rohingya crisis is one of the biggest man-made disasters involving a member since ASEAN was founded in 1967, and it is one of the thorniest issues yet faced by a group that traditionally works by consensus.

Many diplomats and rights activists say ASEAN’s credibility is at risk if it fails to tackle the matter head-on.

At the meetings, ASEAN and China will try to make headway in negotiations for a code of conduct for the South China Sea, which Beijing claims almost in its entirety while ASEAN members Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei claim parts of the area. Taiwan is also a claimant.

But an agreement is unlikely to be announced.

Also, ASEAN members states may announce the successful conclusion of agreements with Russia and the United States on cooperating on cyber security.

Reporting by Jack Kim; additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing and Roberta Rampton in Washington

Reuters

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China-backed trade deal centre stage at summit as US retreats — Questions about Washington’s commitment to Asia

November 11, 2018

World leaders will push for the rapid completion of a massive, China-backed trade deal that excludes the US at a summit this week, in a rebuke to rising protectionism and Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda.

China, Japan, India and other Asia-Pacific countries could announce a broad agreement on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which covers half the world’s population, on the sidelines of the annual gathering.

Not only is the US absent from the deal, but Trump is skipping the summit in Singapore, highlighting how far he has pulled back from efforts to shape global trade rules and raising further questions about Washington’s commitment to Asia.

© AFP | China, Japan, India and other Asia-Pacific countries could this week announce broad agreement on a trade pact covering half the world’s population

Trump launched his unilateralist trade policy with a bang shortly after coming to office by withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a deal spearheaded by predecessor Barack Obama that aimed to bind fast-growing Asian powers into an American-backed order to counter China.

His approach has left the floor open for Beijing to promote a rival pact it favours, the 16-member RCEP, a free trade deal which also aims to cut tariffs and integrate markets, but gives weaker protection in areas including employment and the environment.

The pact championed by Obama has been kept alive even without the US, and is due to go into force this year, but the Beijing-backed pact has now overtaken it as the world’s biggest.

Announcing in Singapore that talks for the deal — which formally began in 2012 — are mostly concluded would be “important as a symbol of Asia’s commitment to trade at a time of rising global tensions”, Deborah Elms, executive director of the Asian Trade Centre, told AFP.

– US commitment questioned –

She said negotiations in some areas were likely to continue into next year, however, while a diplomat attending the summit, speaking anonymously, said “substantial progress” had been made but there were still sticking points.

The gathering of 20 world leaders comes against a backdrop of a months-long trade dispute between China and the United States after Trump imposed tariffs on most Chinese imports this summer, and Beijing retaliated with its own levies.

The standoff is having an impact far beyond the US and China, and leaders at the four days of meetings that begin Monday will be keen to voice their grievances to Vice President Mike Pence, attending in Trump’s place, and Premier Li Keqiang.

Trump’s absence from the Singapore gathering and a subsequent meeting of world leaders in Papua New Guinea is even more notable given Obama, who launched a so-called “pivot to Asia” to direct more US economic and military resources to the region, was a regular participant.

Washington, however, argues that it remains committed to Asia, pointing to regular visits by top officials.

“We are fully engaged,” insisted Patrick Murphy, one of the State Department’s most senior Asia diplomats. “That is very sustained and has been enhanced under the current administration.”

– Nukes, sea tension –

Myanmar’s embattled leader Aung San Suu Kyi is attending the meetings, and will deliver a keynote address at a business forum Monday.

She may face criticism over a military crackdown on the Muslim Rohingya that saw hundreds of thousands flee to Bangladesh last year, and has sparked rare criticism of Myanmar from within regional bloc the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Also on the agenda will be North Korea’s nuclear programme. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed a vaguely worded agreement on denuclearisation at a historic summit in June, but progress has been slow since.

Pence will also keep on pressure on Beijing over its growing aggression in the South China Sea. China claims almost all the strategically vital waters, a source of friction with Southeast Asian states that have overlapping claims as well as the US, the traditionally dominant military power in the region.

Other leaders attending include Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

But much of the focus will be on the RCEP as leaders seek to send a message in support of free trade. The deal groups the 10 ASEAN members plus China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

World leaders “should present a united front advancing trade liberalisation in (the Asia-Pacific) despite global headwinds to trade from the rising tide of global protectionism,” Rajiv Biswas, chief regional economist at IHS Markit, told AFP.

AFP

Western culture is decadent, evil and often meaningless — Says Scotland’s most famous ex-heroin addict — But readers love it

November 9, 2018

Western culture looks to be a whirlwind of drugs, sex and violence — and that’s BEFORE the Trumpian future sets in

Twenty-five years ago Irvine Welsh’s debut novel “Trainspotting” burst out of the housing schemes and back alleys of post-industrial Scotland in a whirlwind of drugs, sex and violence that horrified and delighted critics alike.

The novel’s protagonists have long since scammed, snorted and stolen their way to cult status — helped along by a hugely successful film adaptation.

And Scotland’s most famous ex-heroin addict is still delivering the goods, and says he is as far as ever from settling for “carpet slippers and a cottage on the coast”.

In town for the Hong Kong International Literary Festival Welsh told AFP the world right now “is a terrible place to be a citizen in but it’s a great place to be a writer in”.

He is tight-lipped about his current project — which is set in a Trumpian future and will have mass shootings as its main theme — other than to say that like every other, he is “constantly engrossed in it,” and that it’s “nearly finished.”

– Creating post-Trainspotting –

Welsh is happy that “Trainspotting”, his first creation, is still “bubbling” away in the age of the smartphone-toting millennial.

In 2013 it was voted readers’ favourite Scottish novel of the past 50 years.

And last year Historic Environment Scotland awarded listed status to Edinburgh’s “Banana Flats”, a textbook example of New Brutalist architecture made famous by the novel as the home of one of its characters, Simon “Sick Boy” Williamson.

Since 1993, Welsh has gone on to write 15 more books as well as a number of plays and adaptations, casting deeper into the murky lives of Edinburgh’s pimps, bent cops, burglars and dealers.

He has also moved from brutal chronicling of the dismantlement of post-war Britain, to America, where he takes violence and aggression off the football terraces and into the basement of a serial killer

Welsh has spent 10 years Stateside — in San Francisco, Chicago and now Miami — and says its “probably enough”.

He has laid into President Donald Trump in expletive-ridden Tweets and has criticised his brand of populism as a sham, but says he still feels compelled to write about America.

“With everything that’s going on in the States it’s difficult not to write about it,” he says.

“Just in the last few days a lot of things in the book are now rendered irrelevant in a way, because events have just moved on so quickly, so it might need a redraft again.”

– The Union ‘has to go’ –

His homeland is in flux too as Brexit asks new questions of what the UK stands for and how those living in its constituent parts see themselves and each other.

He recalls 1970s London and spending summer holidays there with an aunt, where he felt “very British then. I felt very Scottish too… there was a kind of unity… all that stuff was wrecked by thirty years of neoliberalism, and I don’t think it’s coming back.”

“Now I’m not so much pro-Scottish independence, but anti-UK,” he says, terming the more than 300-year old Union “false, artificial… and detrimental to the development of progressive forces”.

“As it currently is, it has to go.”

He says he is “neither pro nor anti-Brexit: the EU is an absolute mess and a shambles but the British ruling class are a mess and a shambles as well”.

– ‘Sanitised’ music –

Welsh does not limit himself to the written word. He is on a personal quest to inject some fun back into an electronic music scene he sees as too sanitised, serious and obsessed with technology.

“A lot of the young DJs today, they’ve been doing it since they were 10 years old in their bedrooms …the bedroom’s been their studio. You’ve got people playing dance music who don’t dance… they sit, masters of the technology but they don’t go out and have any fun.”

An album of his own is in the works, a “counterblast” offering of electro/techno that he is confident will bring some humour and fun back to the dance floor, “especially me singing with a German accent”.

Justice by Michał Murawski Electronic Beats Fest Warsaw DJ Tennis Perel Justice Meute Marching Band Techno Party

But that doesn’t mean he’s giving up writing. Far from it.

“The writer’s life is absolutely fantastic,” he says.

And still one that permits the odd juvenile relapse.

“I shouldn’t really say I don’t party hard these days after the past couple of nights in Singapore,” he says coyly.

“Singapore’s not known for that, more for locking you up forever for that sort of thing. But I think that’s what appealed to me, the transgression element to it. I had quite a whale of a time.”

AFP

China’s Xi Jinping vows lower tariffs, more imports at trade fair

November 5, 2018

China is trying to highlight it is open to importing more at a time it is under pressure to open its markets further. Critics say it is more talk than action.

    
China Xi Jinping (Reuters/A. Song)

President Xi Jinping echoed previous pledges to open up China’s market and lower tariffs as he opened a weeklong trade expo in Shanghai on Monday.

The first-ever China International Import Expo runs November 5-10, drawing more than 3,000 exhibitors from some 130 countries to Shanghai to show the import potential of the world’s second largest economy and its 1.3 billion people.

Read more: What China could do to counter US tariffs

In a keynote speech, Xi vowed to increase imports, lower tariffs, reduce non-tariff barriers to trade and protect foreign intellectual property. He also claimed that China would import $30 trillion (€26.3 trillion) worth of goods and $10 trillion in services in the next 15 years. However, the comments were short on specifics.

Critics say reforms to open up the Chinese market have been heavy on words but slow and far less wide-reaching than expected by foreign governments and businesses.

US President Donald Trump has applied pressure on China to open its market, level the playing field, close a trade gap and protect US intellectual property.  The trade showdown between Beijing and Washington has led each side to slap hundreds of billions of dollars in tariffs on each others’ goods.

In apparent reference to the Trump administration’s protectionist moves, Xi said “economic globalization is facing setbacks, multilateralism and the free trade system is under attack, factors of instability and uncertainty are numerous, and risks and obstacles are increasing.”

The European Union, which shares US complaints of Chinese trade policy although it is against the Trump administration’s hardball tactics of applying tariffs, has called for Beijing to open its market.

Ahead of the fair, the French and German ambassadors to China urged Beijing to take “concrete and systematic measures that go beyond tariff adjustments” to improve the business environment for foreign firms.

In a joint letter published in the Chinese business magazine Caixin, they also called on China to remove joint venture requirements for foreign firms and end economic policy that favors state-owned enterprises.

Presidents and prime ministers from nearly 20 countries are attending the trade fair, although no leaders from Western countries are attending.

cw/ng (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

https://www.dw.com/en/chinas-xi-jinping-vows-lower-tariffs-more-imports-at-trade-fair/a-46153548

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Fading Hopes for U.S.-China Trade Truce Hit Markets — Import Expo More Hype Than Substance

November 5, 2018

Asia’s beaten-up stock markets enjoyed a powerful rally in the previous trading session, buoyed by the prospect of warmer relations between the world’s two largest economies. But that optimism didn’t last long.

ASIA MARKETS SNAPSHOT

  • Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dropped 2.7% as Tencent fell more than 4%
  • Indexes in South Korea and Singapore both shed more than 1%
  • The Shanghai Composite and Japan’s Topix declined less than 1%

What’s Happening

Some of Friday’s biggest gainers—indexes in Hong Kong and South Korea—led the way lower Monday.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng and South Korea’s Kospi each surged by the most in percentage terms in nearly seven years Friday. A tweet from President Trump about a positive talk he had with Chinese President Xi Jinping on trade helped fuel the move, as did a Bloomberg News report that Mr. Trump had asked officials to start drafting terms for a potential agreement with China.

The prospect for an imminent trade detente looked dimmer just hours later, as Asian markets were closed, when White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told CNBC that the two countries weren’t, in fact, on the cusp of a deal.

Image result for Ng Han Guan/AP Photo, women pose for selfies

Women pose for selfies with Jinbao, the China International Import Expo mascot, in Shanghai.  Photographer: Ng Han Guan/AP Photo

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Stocks listed in mainland China also fell Monday, but by less than their peers in the region. In comments at an import trade fair in Shanghai, Mr. Xi portrayed the world’s second-largest economy as a willing importer and open market.

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Asian stocks are still languishing near their lowest levels of the year, with indexes in South Korea and Shanghai gathering 2018 losses of more than 15% each. Concerns about global trade have played a big role, as well as the outlook for continued rate increases in the U.S., a strong dollar and the global tech cycle.

What It Means

Hoping for a resolution on the trade issues between the U.S. and China soon is optimistic, said Daryl Liew, head of portfolio management at REYL Singapore. Instead, he said he’s more focused on potential stimulus from Chinese policy makers that could shore up the economy and help markets recover around Asia.

“I don’t think they’ll be flooding the market with liquidity like they have done in previous crises,” he said. “But I do think the targeted measures they’ve announced will help,” he added, pointing to infrastructure spending and possible tax cuts on cars.

Mr. Liew said he has been buying stocks in recent weeks, thanks to his confidence in China’s ability to handle its economic risks and the magnitude of the declines in emerging markets.

Write to Saumya Vaishampayan at saumya.vaishampayan@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/fading-hopes-for-u-s-china-trade-truce-hit-markets-1541393410

See also:

Jack Ma, Bill Gates Join Xi Jinping at China’s First Import Fair

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/photo-essays/2018-11-05/jack-ma-christine-lagarde-join-xi-jinping-at-china-import-expo

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Asian Stocks Lower As “No Breakthrough” in U.S.-China Trade — Xi Jinping speech falls flat

November 5, 2018

Asian markets tumbled Monday as traders feared that President Donald Trump only reported progress in trade talks with China to score political points as the U.S. midterm elections draw near.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s Nikkei 225 index fell 1.6 percent at 21,898.99 and South Korea’s Kospi dropped 1.4 percent to 2,070.83. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index slipped 2.1 percent to 25,928.62. The Shanghai Composite index shed 0.9 percent to 2,652.95. The S&P ASX/200 in Australia fell 0.5 percent to 5,818.10. Shares fell in Taiwan, Singapore and Thailand but rose in the Philippines.

WALL STREET: Technology stocks slumped on Friday as Apple reported poor earnings and said it would stop disclosing quarterly iPhone sales. The company’s stocks gave up 6.6 percent to $207.48. But high-growth stocks rose after the U.S. and China said they had made some progress in trade talks. The S&P 500 index dropped 0.6 percent to 2,723.06 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.4 percent to 25,380.74. The Nasdaq composite, which has a high concentration of technology companies, slipped 1 percent to 7,356.99. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks added 0.2 percent to 1,547.98.

US-CHINA TRADE: Global markets rose Friday after President Donald Trump said that he talked to his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping about trade. Trump added that the discussions were “moving along nicely” ahead of a planned meeting at the Group of 20 summit later this month. Larry Kudlow, a top White House economic adviser, later said “there may be a little thaw going on here.” The two countries have already imposed tariffs on billions of dollars’ worth of each other’s exports and there are hints of more to come if relations do not improve. On Monday, Xi promised to reduce costs for importers and raise consumer spending power at a high-profile trade fair, without addressing an escalating dispute over Beijing’s technology policy.

People stand near an electronic board showing Hong Kong share index outside a local bank in Hong Kong, Monday, Nov. 5, 2018. Asian markets tumbled Monday as traders feared that President Donald Trump only reported progress in trade talks with China to score political points as the U.S. midterm elections draw near. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
People stand near an electronic board showing Hong Kong share index outside a local bank in Hong Kong, Monday, Nov. 5, 2018. Asian markets tumbled Monday as traders feared that President Donald Trump only reported progress in trade talks with China to score political points as the U.S. midterm elections draw near. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu) (AP)

ANALYST’S TAKE: Different takes by U.S. officials on the progress of trade talks with China kept “political uncertainty boiling,” Stephen Innes of OANDA said in a market commentary. “Investors are far too wary of an empty promise, but ultimately, they will need to decide how much of President Trump’s olive branch to China was a ploy to boost equity markets ahead of the U.S. midterm elections on Tuesday and how much of it is a bona fide attempt to reach an agreement,” he said.

ENERGY: Oil prices fell as the U.S. defended waivers given to eight unidentified nations, which will be able to continue importing Iranian oil after the re-imposition of sanctions. Benchmark U.S. crude dropped 37 cents to $62.77 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost 55 cents to $63.14 a barrel in New York on Friday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 37 cents to $72.46 per barrel. The contract shed 6 cents to $72.83 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 113.32 yen from 113.19 yen late Friday. The euro strengthened to $1.1393 from $1.1387.

The Associated Press

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Healthcare: The future of the Republican Party depends on a winning healthcare policy

November 4, 2018

If Democrats mop the floor with Republicans in the midterm elections, it will likely be over healthcare policy. A recent Kaiser poll found that 30 percent of midterm voters think it’s the most important issue — even over the economy. And these same healthcare-minded voters favor Democrats by more than 24 points. It makes sense, because GOP healthcare messaging has been scattered for years. Even now, President Trump is arguing for the need to protect existing Medicare commitments while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., hints at the need to cut Medicare spending. Meanwhile, Republican candidates like Josh Hawley of Missouri campaign on both protecting pre-existing conditions and repealing Obamacare.

Related image

The GOP cannot sustain a nonposition on this issue. As college-age and millennial voters — a group largely drawn to Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and “Medicare for all” — begin to vote more frequently, the GOP will need their own compelling healthcare stance to compete for my peers’ support. Future-minded Republican leaders would be wise to consider the ways policymakers can both reduce healthcare spending and make healthcare more accessible for all. The Trump administration, surprising as it may be, has made some positive changes in healthcare policy. And these changes are setting the stage for what could easily be a very promising system.

By Alex Muresianu
Opinion
Washington Examiner

Image result for hospitals, photos

In August of this year, the Trump administration enacted a rule requiring hospitals to post their procedure prices online. In a free market, prices can only go down when both buyers and sellers know what they are. For instance, areas of medicine with transparent prices — such as cosmetic surgery and LASIK eye surgery — have become both cheaper and higher-quality over the past 25 years. Meanwhile, overall healthcare prices have skyrocketed.

A central factor in rising prices is the collaboration between large hospitals and insurance companies to obscure the price system. This behavior leads to dramatic variations in price for the same procedure with equivalent cost and quality. For example, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the price of a mammogram varies from $50 to $1,045. A study from Yale and the University of Pennsylvania found that lower-leg MRI prices can vary up to 900 percent within the same metropolitan area. In a country where 57 percent of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings, reducing these price differences would have a huge impact.

Transparency would give patients the ability to compare prices and therefore force hospitals to lower them. To allow for the competition that would improve our system, a future healthcare package should pair price transparency with reforming healthcare provider regulations. Hospitals often back strict regulations to drive smaller, lower-cost care providers out of the market, giving large hospitals the monopoly power to overcharge patients.

Conservative healthcare reform must also address the insurance system. As health policy expert David Goldhill wrote in The Atlantic, health insurance should work like other forms of insurance: by preventing financial ruin caused by treatment for unforeseen or chronic injuries. Instead, thanks to policies like the tax exclusion for employer-sponsored health insurance, health insurance is used to pay for almost all routine procedures. Having insurance companies, instead of individuals, directly pay for most procedures inflates costs and leads to ineffectively high consumption of care.

The Trump administration began to address these problems by allowing consumers to buy narrow, “short-term” health insurance plans instead of using Obamacare exchanges. That’s a start, but as the name suggests, it’s only a short-term solution. Such plans do not help people with pre-existing conditions — an issue that has become a focal point of the healthcare debate. If conservatives are interested in finding a permanent solution, they ought to consider universal catastrophic care.

Under universal catastrophic care, everyone in the country would receive coverage for high-cost and chronic illnesses — protecting people with those pre-existing conditions. However, for other procedures, people could choose to pay through health savings accounts or supplementary private insurance. With this system, private insurance would receive none of the subsidies and tax benefits it currently gets, reducing inefficient healthcare consumption. Additionally, lower-income households would receive government assistance if they’re unable to pay for routine or preventative care.

Unlike Medicare-for-All, which would increase federal spending by $32.6 trillion, universal catastrophic care is affordable. The RAND Corporation modeled a health insurance solution proposed by Kip Hagopian and Dana Goldman in National Affairs for universal catastrophic care and found the plan would reduce federal healthcare spending by $72 billion. That’s consistent with the experience of Singapore, which has universal catastrophic insurance and the lowest government healthcare spending in the developed world. The U.S. healthcare system features public insurance programs, private subsidies, regulations, and tax breaks. Replacing all of them with a simple, universal catastrophic insurance plan and a safety net would improve our nation’s health — fiscally and literally.

The GOP’s healthcare reckoning might not come in 2018, but conservatives should be ready whenever it does. Price transparency and universal catastrophic care would do more than solve the GOP’s messaging problem by making healthcare more affordable for low-income people and curbing runaway spending growth. What Republicans are doing now isn’t working, so it’s time to try something new.

Alex Muresianu (@ahardtospell) is a Young Voices contributor studying economics at Tufts University.

Google employees walk out to protest company’s handling of sexual misconduct cases

November 1, 2018

Hundreds of Google engineers and other workers are expected to walk off the job Thursday morning to protest the internet company’s lenient treatment of executives accused of sexual misconduct.

It is the latest expression of a backlash against men’s exploitation of female subordinates in a business, entertainment and politics. In Silicon Valley, women also are becoming fed up with the male-dominated composition of the technology industry’s workforce – a glaring imbalance that critics say fosters unsavory behavior akin to a college fraternity house.

The Google protest, billed “Walkout For Real Change,” is unfolding a week after a New York Times story detailed allegations of sexual misconduct about creator of its Android software, Andy Rubin. The report said Rubin received a $90 million severance package in 2014 even though Google concluded the sexual misconduct allegations again him were credible.

Rubin derided the Times story article as inaccurate and denied the allegations in a tweet .

© AFP file photo | Google employees are expected to walk off the job to protest the company’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations.

The same story also disclosed allegations of sexual misconduct of other executives, including Richard DeVaul, a director at the same Google-affiliated lab that created far-flung projects such as self-driving cars and internet-beaming balloons. DeVaul had remained at the “X” lab after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced about him a few years ago, but he resigned Tuesday without severance, Google confirmed Wednesday.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai apologized for the company’s “past actions” in an email sent to employees Tuesday. “I understand the anger and disappointment that many of you feel,” Pichai wrote. “I feel it as well, and I am fully committed to making progress on an issue that has persisted for far too long in our society. and, yes, here at Google, too.”

The email didn’t mention the reported incidents involving Rubin, DeVaul or anyone else, but Pichai didn’t dispute anything in the Times story.

In an email last week, Pichai and Eileen Naughton, Google’s executive in charge of personnel issues, sought to reassure workers that the company had cracked down on sexual misconduct since Rubin’s departure four years ago.

Among other things, Pichai and Naughton disclosed that Google had fired 48 employees , including 13 senior managers, for “sexual harassment” in recent years without giving any of them severance packages.

But Thursday’s workout could signal that a significant number of the 94,000 employees working for Google and its corporate parent Alphabet Inc. remained unconvinced the company is doing enough to adhere to Alphabet’s own edict urging all employees to “do the right thing .”

A Silicon Valley congresswoman tweeted her support of the Google walkout using the “metoo” hashtag that has become a battle cry for women fighting sexual misconduct. “Why do they think it’s OK to reward perpetrators & further violate victims?” asked Rep. Jackie Speier, who represents an affluent district where many of Google’s employees live.

(AP)

Related:

Google employees are walking out over sexual harassment scandals

November 1, 2018

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Hong Kong (CNN Business)Google employees in Asia kicked off a global protest on Thursday over how the company deals with sexual harassment.

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The demonstrations, dubbed “Google Walkout,” follow an outcry over a New York Times investigation that detailed years of sexual harassment allegations, multimillion-dollar severance packages for accused executives, and a lack of transparency over the cases.
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Around 150 Google employees in India participated in the walkouts, a company spokesman in the country told CNN. Google (GOOGL) has about 2,000 staff members across Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad.
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Demonstrations were also reported at the company’s Singapore and Tokyo offices.
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According to social media posts, Google staffers around the world planned to walk out of their offices at 11:10 a.m. Thursday to demand changes at the company, including an end to the use of forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination.
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Google CEO Sundar Pichai has voiced his support for the walkouts.
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“We let Googlers know that we are aware of the activities planned for Thursday and that employees will have the support they need if they wish to participate,” Pichai said in a statement to CNN on Wednesday.
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“Employees have raised constructive ideas for how we can improve our policies and our processes going forward,” he said. “We are taking in all their feedback so we can turn these ideas into action.”
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A Twitter account named @googlewalkout posted photos of people at what it said were protests at Google’s Singapore and Tokyo offices. CNN wasn’t immediately able to verify the photos.
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A Google spokesman in Singapore said he couldn’t provide details on how many people took part in the walkouts at those two offices, which each have more than 1,000 employees.
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Organizers of the walkouts said they expected more than 1,500 people — mostly women — to take part across nearly two dozen Google offices around the world, according to a New York Times report Wednesday.
CNN wasn’t immediately able to reach the organizers directly for comment.
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In the United States, there are hundreds of posts on social media using the hashtag #googlewalkout.
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Android founder Andy Rubin left Google in 2014. His lawyer says allegations against him of sexual misconduct are false.

Google’s management has been struggling to deal with the backlash from The New York Times investigation.
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Top executives stressed to employees that the company is “dead serious about making sure we provide a safe and inclusive workplace” in an email sent shortly after the Times investigation was published last week.
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According to the report, the company stayed silent about sexual misconduct allegations against three executives over the past decade, including Android creator Andy Rubin, who left the company in 2014. Tech news site The Information previously reported that Google had investigated Rubin for an inappropriate relationship while at the company.
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But the Times uncovered new details, including a reported $90 million exit package that Rubin is said to have been granted when he departed the company. The Times reported that Rubin was accused of coercing a female employee, with whom he’d been having affair, into performing oral sex in a hotel room in 2013. A Google investigation found her claim to be credible and then-CEO Larry Page asked Rubin to resign, according to the Times.
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Sam Singer, a lawyer for Rubin, disputed the allegations in the Times report.
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“None of the allegations made about Mr. Rubin are true,” he told CNN Business in a statement, calling them “demonstrably false.”
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Earlier this week, Richard DeVaul, a director of Google X, resigned from his position. The Times report claimed he had sexually harassed a job applicant. DeVaul is leaving without any exit package, according to a person familiar with the matter.
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In a statement to the Times, DeVaul said he was sorry for the “error of judgement.” CNN wasn’t able to reach him for comment.
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https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/01/tech/google-employee-walkout-andy-rubin/index.html

See also:

https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-46054202