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After COVID crash, IMF tips record growth for 2021

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The rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and vast sums of government aid will accelerate global economic growth to a record high this year in a powerful rebound from the pandemic recession, the International Monetary Fund says in its latest forecast.The 190-country lending agency on Tuesday (Wednesday AEST) said it expected the world economy to expand 6…

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The rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and vast sums of government aid will accelerate global economic growth to a record high this year in a powerful rebound from the pandemic recession, the International Monetary Fund says in its latest forecast.

The 190-country lending agency on Tuesday (Wednesday AEST) said it expected the world economy to expand 6 per cent in 2021, up from the 5.5 per cent it had forecast in January.

It would be the fastest expansion for the global economy in IMF records dating back to 1980.

READ MORE: Tax cuts driving economic recovery, insists Treasurer

In 2022, the IMF predicts, international economic growth will decelerate to a still strong 4.4 per cent, up from its January forecast of 4.2 per cent.

“A way out of this health and economic crisis is increasingly visible,” IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath told reporters.

The agency’s economists now estimate the global economy shrank 3.3 per cent in 2020 after the devastating recession that followed the coronavirus’ eruption across the world early last spring.

That is the worst annual figure in the IMF’s database, though not as severe as the 3.5 per cent drop it had estimated three months ago.

Without US$16 trillion ($20.92 trillion) in global government aid that helped sustain companies and consumers during COVID-19 lockdowns, IMF forecasters said last year’s downturn could have been three times worse.

Australia’s economy is no exception, set to expand 4.5 per cent in 2021 before a significant slowdown to 2.8 per cent in 2022.

Those figures, based on a combination of Australian government forecasts and IMF analysis, would come on the back of a 2.4 per cent slump last year.

The US economy, the world’s largest, is now forecast to expand 6.4 per cent in 2021 — its fastest growth since 1984 — and 3.5 per cent in 2022.

That growth is being supported by President Joe Biden’s US$1.9 trillion ($2.5 trillion) relief package, while an acceleration in the vaccine rollout is beginning to let Americans return to restaurants, bars, shops and airports in larger numbers.

Professor Gopinath warned the economic recovery was likely to be uneven.

The rebound is expected to be slower in poor countries that can’t afford massive government stimulus and in those dependent on tourism.

Economic damage from the health crisis is “reversing gains in poverty reduction” and last year increased the ranks of extreme poor by 95 million compared with pre-pandemic projections.

Because of trends accelerated by the pandemic, such as stepped-up automation and a shift toward e-commerce and away from brick-and-mortar stores, the economist predicted “many of the jobs lost are unlikely to return”.

A faster recovery in the United States means US interest rates could rise “in unexpected ways,” rattling financial markets and pulling investment out of hard-hit, debt-ridden emerging markets.

In the IMF’s estimation, the global rebound will gradually lose momentum and return to pre-COVID levels of just above 3 per cent growth.

Countries will again encounter the obstacles they faced before the pandemic, including ageing work forces in most rich countries and in China.

The world’s second-largest economy, China, which imposed a draconian COVID-19 clampdown a year ago and got a head start on an economic recovery, will record 8.4 per cent growth this year and 5.6 per cent in 2022, the IMF estimates.

The monetary fund expects the 19 countries that share the euro currency to collectively expand 4.4 per cent this year and 3.8 per cent in 2022. Japan is expected to register 3.3 per cent growth this year and 2.5 per cent the next.


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Australian

Switching off: AGL mystifies the market

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Chief executive Brett Redman and chairman Graeme Hunt had met late on Tuesday after several high-level strategy days. Each was focused on nutting out a plan to split the company, only announced three weeks earlier.Instead, the conversation quickly took a different turn.On the 24th floor at 200 ­George St, the boss of Australia’s biggest energy…

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Chief executive Brett Redman and chairman Graeme Hunt had met late on Tuesday after several high-level strategy days. Each was focused on nutting out a plan to split the company, only announced three weeks earlier.Instead, the conversation quickly took a different turn.On the 24th floor at 200 ­George St, the boss of Australia’s biggest energy retailer was suddenly headed for the exit.The official version was that Redman handed in his resignation. After weighing up a lesser role leading one of the soon-to-be-separated companies, he could not commit to a further five-year stint after already spending 15 years with the power giant.However, his hasty exit — he was out the door as CEO on Thursday — has sent the rumour mill into overdrive. Industry insiders question why Redman was not allowed to deliver the restructuring he had in large part devised. “Either the board is extremely dumb or there is something missing in the story we’re being told,” one industry executive told The Weekend Australian. “It doesn’t stack up.”Certainly when Redman broke the news to several of his executive team late on Wednesday, there was huge surprise that the AGL “lifer” would choose to abandon ship during one of the most pivotal restructures of its 180-year history.Those close to the board say they had little choice. Once Redman had indicated his intention to resign, as they tell it, it would have been futile for the CEO to keep working on a major break-up of the company when he already had one foot out the door.The board saw its hand being forced and made the emergency decision to parachute Hunt in as interim boss while AGL director Peter Botten was named chairman.By Wednesday night, the news had leaked into the tight-knit electricity industry. As Redman returned to his Pymble home in Sydney’s upper north shore, a small number of AGL staff worked late into the night preparing the announcement. Redman would get to keep his short and long-term incentives after being treated as a “good leaver” under the company’s executive remuneration framework.The “good leaver” terms allow executives to keep incentives under a range of scenarios including the CEO role being terminated by mutual agreement with the board. It also keeps the official narrative in place.Redman returned to the office early on Thursday morning and filmed a video message for staff, before The Australian broke the news.Hunt had of course been here before. In 2018 he was forced to call Andy Vesey, Redman’s predecessor, to a meeting where the US executive was told his time was up. The combative Vesey boarded a plane to the US soon after and never came back.Hunt quickly appointed Redman, AGL’s then CFO, as his replacement. His mandate was to reset the company and improve relationships with Canberra, develop a more unified executive team and find a way of growing new sources of revenue as the power market’s switch to renewables gathered pace. AGL Energy ASX chart (AGL)But any sense that Redman would be able to sit back and enjoy the $1bn in record annual profits brought in by Vesey in 2018 would soon fade. Australia’s oldest utility quickly saw its earnings whiplashed by low wholesale electricity prices and government intervention on top of a backlash by investors over exposure to polluting coal plants.A $3bn plan to buy his way out of trouble through a takeover of telco Vocus was unsuccessful and Redman eventually came to terms with needing to make a more fundamental change.The blueprint unveiled on March 30 was bold.AGL would create two ASX-listed companies through a demerger after splitting its retail and supply arms to form a green electricity retailer and a generation giant dominated by coal power.Redman would divide the company into a zero carbon retail business dubbed New AGL and a generation business — including its coal plants Loy Yang A and Bayswater — in a separate vehicle known as PrimeCo.Curiously, Redman spent relatively little time engaging with investors about the grand restructure in the last few weeks with Hunt thought to have taken a leading role in speaking with shareholders.There were immediately plenty of misgivings and questions about whether the move may be masking a fundamental dent to earnings in the next few years.Others said that with AGL shares halving in value in the last nine months alone, the company could hardly afford to sit on its hands and hope for the best.Either way, industry watchers say having Hunt, with scant energy experience, as interim boss in charge of executing the restructure is hardly ideal. “If you’re the architect of the plan, surely you would want to have Redman there to see it further down the road. It smells very fishy,” one source said.Redman will remain “on-call” to AGL until October but he’s expected to spend little time in the office. Pulling off the company’s move to New AGL now rests with Hunt.
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Luckless AFL star’s ‘shattering’ blow

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The Western Bulldogs utility has endured a horror run of injuries throughout his AFL career, and the star’s nightmare unfortunately looks set to continue.Having played just three games in the 2020 season, Jong was poised to make his long-awaited return from an ankle injury for the round six grudge match at Canberra’s Manuka Oval.But his…

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The Western Bulldogs utility has endured a horror run of injuries throughout his AFL career, and the star’s nightmare unfortunately looks set to continue.Having played just three games in the 2020 season, Jong was poised to make his long-awaited return from an ankle injury for the round six grudge match at Canberra’s Manuka Oval.But his comeback was cruelly cut short in the opening term.Watch the 2021 Toyota AFL Premiership Season. Every match of every round Live on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now >During the first quarter of Friday evening’s clash against the GWS Giants, Ling fell to the deck clutching his right hamstring following an inconspicuous collision with Callan Ward.“This looks like a hamstring for Jong, holding the bottom of the right leg there,” commentator James Brayshaw said on Channel 7.“That is not good. Not good at all for a guy that’s had to battle so hard over the last couple of years.”Hawthorn great Luke Hodge continued: “That’s shattering … he’s had so many issues, especially with his shoulders. He finally gets back in and started the game really well, and then that happens.”The 27-year-old was helped off the ground by two trainers and later replaced by medical substitute Lachlan McNeil.Jong has missed 38 games since 2017 through injury, and that number could grow depending on the severity of Friday’s setback.“Feel so sorry for Jong he has put in so much work. Pretty devastating to see him go down,” Bulldogs teammate Jack Macrae told Channel 7.The Advocate’s Alex Fair tweeted: “Lin Jong injured. Footy can be really cruel sometimes.”The Age’s Daniel Cherney posted: “Poor Lin Jong. Cursed that bloke.”Jong signed a one-year deal in November last year to extend his AFL career into a tenth season.Minutes later, Giants midfielder Nick Haynes was also subbed out of the contest with a hamstring complaint, replaced by teammate Tanner Bruhn.In a tightly-contest first half at the nation’s capital, the undefeated Bulldogs struggled to move the ball out of their back-half in cold conditions.“The Giants are really well set-up defensively — and that’s what’s forcing some of these hack kicks out from the Western Bulldogs,” Swans legend Jude Bolton told Channel 7.“They’re being a bit more methodical with their ball use, the Giants.”But the Bulldogs prevailed to hold a narrow eight-point lead at halftime.The margin was reduced to just three points at three-quarter-time, setting up a nailbiting climax.Former Essendon star Matthew Lloyd told 3AW: “The game has turned into a bit of a dogfight. And that’s exactly what the Giants wanted going into the last quarter.”However, the Bulldogs dominated the final term, kicking the final six goals to clinch a 15.14 (104) to 9.11 (65) victory.Giants captain Toby Greene kicked a game-high four majors for the hosts, also contributing 19 disposals and six marks.READ MORE: AFL fans booted amid WA snap lockdownMeanwhile, Macrae once again dominated the midfield with a game-high 40 disposals and 864 metres gained.The Bulldogs have started season with six consecutive wins, a feat they haven’t achieved since 1946.Luke Beveridge’s side will next face the Richmond Tigers at the MCG, while the Giants will travel to Adelaide to take on the Crows.NED-3294-NCA-App-Banner
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Devastation grows as crematoriums overflow in India

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Warning: This article contains images which may be distressing to some readersIndia reported a global record of more than 314,000 new infections on Thursday as a grim coronavirus surge in the world’s second-most populous country sends more and more sick people into a fragile health care system critically short of hospital beds and oxygen.The 314,835…

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Warning: This article contains images which may be distressing to some readers

India reported a global record of more than 314,000 new infections on Thursday as a grim coronavirus surge in the world’s second-most populous country sends more and more sick people into a fragile health care system critically short of hospital beds and oxygen.

The 314,835 infections added in the past 24 hours raise India’s total past 15.9 million cases since the pandemic began. It’s the second-highest total in the world next to the United States. India has nearly 1.4 billion people.

READ MORE: Australia cuts direct flights from India after mass COVID outbreak

Fatalities rose by 2104 in the past 24 hours, raising India’s overall death toll to 184,657, the Health Ministry said.

A large number of hospitals are reporting acute shortages of beds and medicine and are running on dangerously low levels of oxygen.

The New Delhi High Court on Wednesday ordered the government to divert oxygen from industrial use to hospitals to save people’s lives.

“You can’t have people die because there is no oxygen. Beg, borrow or steal, it is a national emergency,” the judges said, responding to a petition by a New Delhi hospital seeking the court’s intervention.

The government is rushing oxygen tankers to replenish supplies to hospitals.

Indian Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Thursday that “demand and supply is being monitored round the clock.” He said in a tweet that to address the exponential spike in demand, the government has increased the quota of oxygen for the seven worst-hit states.

Lockdowns and strict curbs have brought pain, fear and agony to many people in New Delhi and other cities.

READ MORE: India’s second COVID-19 wave hits like ‘tsunami’

In scenes familiar across the country, ambulances are rush from one hospital to another, trying to find an empty bed. Grieving relatives line up outside crematoriums where the number of dead bodies has jumped several times.

“I get numerous calls every day from patients desperate for a bed. The demand is far too much than the supply,” said Dr Sanjay Gururaj, a doctor at Bengaluru-based Shanti Hospital and Research Centre.

“I try to find beds for patients every day, and it’s been incredibly frustrating to not be able to help them. In the last week, three patients of mine have died at home because they were unable to get beds. As a doctor, it’s an awful feeling,” Gururaj said.

Yogesh Dixit, a resident of northern Uttar Pradesh state, said earlier this week that he had to buy two oxygen cylinders at 12,000 rupees ($206) each, more than twice the normal cost, for his ailing father because the state-run hospital in Lucknow had run out of supplies.

READ MORE: Twenty-two dead after oxygen tank leaks at hospital in India

He bought two “because the doctors can ask for another oxygen cylinder at any time,” he said, adding that he had to sell his wife’s jewelry to meet the cost.

Makeshift crematoriums overrun

The main cremation ground at Lucknow, the state capital, received nearly 200 bodies on Sunday.

“The bodies were everywhere, they were being cremated on sidewalks meant for walking. I have never such a flow of dead bodies in my life,” said Shekhar Chakraborty, 68.

In Kanpur, also in Uttar Pradesh, 35 temporary platforms have been set up on Bithoor-Sidhnath Ghat along the Ganges River to cremate bodies.

The Health Ministry said that of the country’s total production of 7500 tons of oxygen per day, 6600 tons was being allocated for medical use.

READ MORE: Patient left gasping for air for 10 hours as Indian hospitals buckle

It also said that 75 railroad coaches in the Indian capital have been turned into hospitals providing an additional 1200 beds for COVID-19 patients.

The Times of India newspaper said that the previous highest daily case count of 307,581 was reported in the US on January 8.


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