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Flood-hit Libyan city facing a long recovery

Flood-hit Libyan city facing a long recovery

DERNA, Libya — Residents of Derna in eastern Libya were counting their losses from a flood that devastated swathes of the coastal city as the search for the missing continued on Saturday for a sixth day and more bodies were pulled from the sea.

Central Street, once a focus of economic activity in Derna lined with shops, was largely deserted, the silence broken only by the sound of the wind whistling past mangled buildings as a few people sat disconsolate in the road, sipping coffee and surveying the damage.

“The first thing I’m afraid of is that this will take a long time,” said 44-year-old teacher Tarek Faheem al-Hasadi, whose wife and five young grandchildren were killed in the flood. He and his son survived by climbing onto the roof.

“This needs persistence and I’m afraid that the support that is coming is temporary,” he said between tears, standing guard in front his ruined home, but adding that he was determined not to leave the area.

A three-storey building standing opposite had been swept 60 meters (200 feet) down the road by the floodwaters, Mr. Hasadi said.

At Derna’s seafront, where a wrecked car could be seen perched on top of concrete storm breakers and driftwood was strewn across muddy pools, diggers worked to clear the path for rescue teams and a helicopter scanned the sea for bodies.

Entire districts of Derna, with an estimated population of at least 120,000, were swept away or buried in brown mud after two dams south of the city broke on Sunday night unleashing torrents of floodwater down a usually dry riverbed.

The International Organization for Migration mission in Libya has said that more than 5,000 people were presumed dead, with 3,922 deaths registered in hospitals. About 38,640 were displaced in the flood-stricken region.

The true death toll could be far higher, officials say.

“The situation is very, very tragic,” said Qais, a rescue worker from Tunisia at the seafront who only gave his first name. “We have never seen such damage caused by water.”

More than 450 bodies had been recovered in the past three days from the seashore, including 10 from under the rubble, said Kamal Al-Siwi, the official in charge of missing people.

“The work is ongoing and is very, very, very complicated,” he told Reuters. “This operation in my opinion, needs months and years.”

The World Health Organization said on Saturday it had flown in enough emergency aid to reach nearly 250,000 people affected by Storm Daniel across eastern Libya, including essential medicines, surgery supplies and body bags for the deceased.

Saudi Arabia announced the departure of its first aid flight to Libya and Russia said the third of its aid flights had arrived carrying a mobile hospital.

An Italian naval ship docked in Derna with supplies including tents, blankets, water pumps and tractors, Italy’s Embassy in Libya said, posting photos of smaller vessels bringing equipment ashore.

More than 1,000 people have been buried in mass graves, according to the United Nations, drawing warnings from aid groups about the risk of contaminating water or causing mental distress to families of the deceased.

The head of Libya’s National Center for Disease Control, Hayder Al-Sayah, said there was little risk from corpses unless they were carrying diseases, but that recorded cases of diarrhoea had risen to 150 from 55 on Friday due to people drinking polluted water.  

Derna has been hit hard by the turmoil and conflict in Libya since the NATO-backed overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi during a popular uprising in 2011.

It was controlled for several years by jihadist militants before forces loyal to eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) besieged and took control of the city in 2019.

Infrastructure across Libya has been degraded amid the political paralysis of the past decade, and experts had warned that Derna faced potential disaster if maintenance work was not carried out on the dams outside the city.

Libya’s continuing political divisions, with rival administrations and parliaments in the east and west, could hamper the aid effort. — Reuters

#Floodhit #Libyan #city #facing #long #recovery

China factory output, retail sales beat forecasts in boost to recovery prospects

China factory output, retail sales beat forecasts in boost to recovery prospects

 – China‘s industrial output and retail sales grew at a faster-than-expected pace in August, but property investment slumped further and could drag on broader demand even as the recent flurry of support policies showed signs of stabilizing the economy.

Industrial output, released on Friday by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), rose 4.5% in August from a year earlier, accelerating from the 3.7% pace seen in July and came above expectations for a 3.9% increase in a Reuters poll of analysts. The growth marked the quickest pace since April.

Retail sales, a gauge of consumption, also increased at a faster 4.6% pace in August aided by the summer travel season, and was the quickest growth since May. That compared with a 2.5% increase in July, and an expected 3% increase.

The upbeat data suggest that a flurry of recent measures including property support policies to shore up a faltering economic recovery are starting to bear fruit.

Reacting to the data, the Chinese yuan CNY=CFXS touched two-week high against dollar.

Yet, the recovery is far from sure-footed, analysts say.

“Despite signs of stabilization in manufacturing and related investment, the deteriorating property investment will continue to pressure economic growth,” said Gary Ng, Natixis Asia Pacific senior economist.

Friday’s data followed better-than-expected bank lending figures, narrowing in the declines of exports and imports as well as easing deflationary pressure.

The country’s passenger vehicle sales also returned to growth in August from a year earlier, as deeper discounts and tax breaks for environmentally friendly and electric vehicles boosted consumer sentiment.

To sustain the recovery momentum, China‘s central bank said on Thursday it would cut the amount of cash that banks must hold as reserves for the second time this year to boost liquidity. Earlier in the day, the bank also rolled over maturing medium-term policy loans to inject more liquidity into the finiancial system, while keeping the interest rate unchanged.

But analysts say more fiscal and monetary policy steps are needed as an ailing property sector, high youth unemployment, uncertainty around household consumption and rising Sino-US tensions over trade, technology and geopolitics have raised the bar for a durable economic recovery in the near future.

Ng said confidence remains the root of most problems requiring larger “constructive policy and regulatory changes” to boost growth momentum.

The once mighty property sector still remains a drag on the $18 trillion economy, with the country’s largest private developer Country Garden the latest to stumble due to liquidity squeeze.

For August, property investment extended its fall, down 19.1% year-on-year from a 17.8% slump the previous month, according to Reuters calculations based on NBS data.

Moody’s on Thursday cut China‘s crisis-hit property sector’s outlook to negative from stable, expecting contracted sales to fall by about 5% over the next six to 12 months.

Fixed asset investment expanded 3.2% in the first eight months of 2023 from the same period a year earlier, versus expectations for a 3.3% rise. It grew 3.4% in the first seven months.

An uncertain business climate meant companies remained wary about hiring, but the nationwide survey-based jobless rate improved a touch to 5.2% in August, slightly down from 5.3% in July. – Reuters

#China #factory #output #retail #sales #beat #forecasts #boost #recovery #prospects

China’s economic gloom hangs over Japan’s long-awaited recovery

China’s economic gloom hangs over Japan’s long-awaited recovery

 – Policymakers in Tokyo believe China’s deepening economic woes could hit Japan’s fragile recovery, especially if Beijing fails to shore up demand with meaningful stimulus, potentially delaying an exit from ultra-loose monetary policy.

China’s downturn would leave Japan’s export-reliant economy with little external support as aggressive Federal Reserve interest rate hikes cool growth in the United States, another key driver of global activity.

The risks from China will be among key topics of debate at the Bank of Japan’s September policy meeting, say five sources familiar with the bank’s thinking, and raise fresh questions about Governor Kazuo Ueda’s efforts to wean the economy off the massive monetary stimulus of the past decade.

“What’s happening in China is worrying and could deal a huge blow to Japan’s economy,” said one of the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

“A downturn in China may diminish the chance of Japan achieving sustained wage growth,” which is a crucial condition for phasing out monetary stimulus, another source said.

In a sign of growing pessimism over China, the government also said its monthly economic report for August that “concern over China’s outlook” was among risks to Japan’s recovery.

“China is over,” a senior Japanese government official told Reuters on condition of anonymity because of sensitivity of the issue. “I think China will never return to 5% growth.”

Having taken steps in July to make its ultra-loose policy sustainable, the BOJ is widely expected to keep monetary settings unchanged at its Sept. 21-22 meeting.



While many Japanese policymakers expect China to avert a hard-landing, thanks in some part to Beijing’s recent support measures, the stakes for Japan are high.

China is Japan’s largest trading partner, accounting for 20% of its exports, having replaced the United States in 2020. Exports to China fell 8.6% in the first half of this year as demand for cars, steel and electronics wilted.

Economists believe China’s downturn could knock 1-2 percentage points off Japan’s annual growth, fueling fears of a prolonged slowdown in Asia’s two biggest economies, which combined account for about a fifth of global gross domestic product.

China is also losing its appeal as a production hub for Japanese firms with some already reducing exposure to the country.

Komatsu Ltd 6301.T, was among them. The world’s No. 2 construction machinery maker has shifted some operations away from China, its chief executive Hiroyuki Ogawa told Reuters this week.

Ogawa said going forward Komatsu will “cut down on production capacity in a way to match actual demand in China.”

Diplomatic tensions may also be a factor.

Suntory Holdings chief executive Takeshi Niinami warned China’s economy is in an “extremely difficult” situation, which may be contributing to a rising backlash against Japan over the release of treated Fukushima water into the ocean.

Those bilateral strains could additionally dash hopes of a revival in Chinese tourists, delaying a broad-based recovery in Japan’s service sector.

The risks from China heighten challenges for the BOJ in winding down its bond yield control, a key part of its monetary policy aimed at sustainably reflating stagnant consumer demand.

“Exports to China had already been weak and headwinds to inbound tourism are clearly bad for Japan’s economy,” said Toru Suehiro, chief economist at Daiwa Securities. “All in all, it’s hard to justify tightening monetary policy any time soon.”

Japan’s core inflation hit 3.1% in July, exceeding the BOJ’s 2% target for the 16th straight month. Firms also promised wage hikes unseen in three decades this year, heightening the case for a retreat from decades of ultra-loose monetary policy.

While some BOJ policymakers began dropping hints of a near-term policy shift, Governor Ueda has stressed the need to wait until domestic demand and wage growth replace import costs as a key driver of consumer inflation.

The darkening outlook for Japan’s recovery may push back the timing of a BOJ policy shift. Falling demand in overseas markets like China could weigh on manufacturers’ profits and discourage them from hiking wages – a prerequisite for phasing out monetary stimulus.

BOJ board member Toyoaki Nakamura last month described China’s high unemployment and shrinking investment as sources of concern.

Analysts expect Japan’s economic growth to slow in the current quarter after a brisk expansion in the April-June period, heightening uncertainty on whether a spiral of higher wages and inflation could take hold.

In a sign rising inflation is already taking a toll on consumption, Japan’s household spending suffered its biggest drop in nearly 2-1/2 years in July.

China’s recent weakness alone won’t be enough for the BOJ to alter its optimistic projection on external demand,” said former top BOJ economist Seisaku Kameda, now an economist at a think tank affiliated with Japan’s Sompo Holdings.

“But China’s weakness certainly heightens the hurdle for Japan to sustainably achieve 2% inflation, which is a quite ambitious goal in the first place.” – Reuters

#Chinas #economic #gloom #hangs #Japans #longawaited #recovery

More support needed for infrastructure’s post-pandemic recovery

More support needed for infrastructure’s post-pandemic recovery

By Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson, Reporter

THE government will need to create a more enabling environment for investments to support the infrastructure sector’s post-pandemic recovery, analysts said.

“On the national front, hard-earned gains might still be lost and global opportunities missed. For instance, our failure to build the manufacturing sector, made worse by the government’s inability to lower energy costs and cut the bureaucratic red tape, has made a lot of investors look elsewhere for opportunities,” Megaworld Corp. First Vice-President for Marketing and Sales Noli D. Hernandez said in a Viber message.

Infrastructure development is one of the Marcos administration’s priority areas. The government is targeting to spend 5-6% of gross domestic product (GDP) on infrastructure annually.

This year, the government plans to spend 5.3% of GDP on infrastructure, equivalent to about P1.29 trillion.

From 2010 to 2018, developing countries used only about 70% of infrastructure investment budgets, according to the World Bank.
A recent note by Nomura Global Markets Research said Philippine infrastructure development is seen to accelerate in the medium term.

“We remain optimistic that infrastructure development in these countries will accelerate in the next few years. Despite the recent improvement, there remains substantial scope for more progress, and governments are setting more ambitious targets to narrow this gap, building on earlier successes,” Nomura said.

Colliers Philippines Research Director Joey Roi H. Bondoc said the construction sector has yet to return completely to pre-pandemic levels.

“Construction activities have yet to revert to pre-pandemic levels but we are definitely seeing glimmers of hope. In our view, return to pre-pandemic construction levels will likely hinge on interest rate movements, prices of construction materials,” he said in an e-mail.

Mr. Bondoc said that external headwinds will also continue to have an impact on the recovery of construction activities.

“Colliers also believes that overall recovery in demand will also partly rely on sustained business and consumer confidence across the Philippines. The country’s growth trajectory presents enormous opportunities for developers with office, residential, retail, and leisure footprint,” he added.

Sustained growth in government spending will be crucial for the rebound for the sector.

“The most important underlying reason for the recovery of the infrastructure sector has been the sustained and broadening government spending on public infrastructure in the last few years,” Terry L. Ridon, a public investment analyst and convenor of think tank InfraWatch PH, said in an e-mail.

Infrastructure spending rose by an annual 7.8% to P507.2 billion in the first half. Overall infrastructure disbursements in the first six months were equivalent to 5.3% of GDP.

“Despite the coronavirus pandemic and economic headwinds, the government has continued to spend on new roads, bridges and flood control projects in various parts of the country,” he added.

Under the proposed 2024 National Expenditure Plan, the “Build, Better, More” program has been allocated P1.418 trillion. The bulk will go to physical connectivity infrastructure such as seaports, airports, and mass transport.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board has approved 197 flagship infrastructure projects worth P8.71 trillion.

“The government’s massive infrastructure program should benefit the Philippine property market and developers should seize opportunities by strategically launching more office projects, residential enclaves, and hotels in major growth areas,” Mr. Bondoc said.

However, the government’s massive infrastructure commitments are not enough to support the rest of the construction sector.

There is still a need to expedite permitting processes, cut red tape, and create a more enabling environment for investments.

“The challenge of the government is not about allocating the budget, but I think it’s implementation of projects. Some of the projects we are doing today were approved even during Marcos Sr.’s time, and we’re only doing it now,” Phinma Corp. Executive Vice-President Eduardo A. Sahagun said in a Zoom call interview.

“If it takes the same amount of time to do it, we will lag behind. I hope that’s where the bottlenecks must be addressed, how to speed up implementation of projects,” he added.

The government should pursue more public-private partnerships (PPPs) and joint ventures (JVs) to accelerate the implementation of projects.

“The openness towards public-private partnerships has been an important reform in the infrastructure sector. It is bearing fruit today with the decision to implement a P170-billion solicited bidding for the rehabilitation of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA),” Mr. Ridon said.

The government recently invited local and foreign investors to bid for the PPP project to upgrade and operate the NAIA. This will be under a rehabilitate-operate-expand-transfer arrangement, as provided for under the Build-Operate-Transfer Law.

“Local developers should explore firming up JVs with other homegrown players or even foreign property firms. In our view foreign players benefit from their partnership with local players given the latter’s experience in tapping and catering to the preferences of the domestic market,” Mr. Bondoc said.

“What’s notable is that these JVs are likely to result in a more competitive Philippine property landscape, eventually benefiting Filipino investors and end-users,” he added.

The government is hoping to attract more foreign investments after recent economic reforms allowed full foreign ownership in telecommunications, airlines, railways and renewable energy projects.

Meanwhile, companies involved in infrastructure are looking to revamp their internal processes to integrate post-pandemic strategies.

“One of the lessons we’ve learned coming out of the recent downturn, indeed coming out of all the previous downturns, is the primacy of a resilient, innovative, customer-centric and forward-thinking company culture, which fosters not just the aggressive seeking of opportunities but the creation of those opportunities where they seem nonexistent,” Megaworld’s Mr. Hernandez said.

Phinma’s Mr. Sahagun said firms should decentralize their decisions.

“We have to develop internal capabilities. As a company, we have to be agile in adapting to change. The first thing we did was to delegate authorities in different areas so they could make decisions on their own. If you’re just centralized in (one) office, you have no people on the ground, it will be difficult for you to continue doing business,” he added.

The shift to digitalization is also key in the post-pandemic recovery.

“Like most companies, we believe that the only way forward is to leverage our strengths with more human innovation and technological adoption and advances, either by leaps or small increments,” Mr. Hernandez said.

“The advent of artificial intelligence (AI) will definitely and definitively revolutionize and transform not just the way we do things, but ultimately determine exactly what things we are able to do and to what degree of sophistication. In the end however, AI or any other systems or technologies will only always be a tool. The key will always be the company’s culture,” he added.

The impact of climate change should also be considered in infrastructure planning, according to Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities Director for Urban Development Maria Golda P. Hilario.

“The Philippine infrastructure industry must proactively address the risks and projected impact of climate change in its entire supply and value chain. It is important to not only acknowledge the threats posed by extreme weather events — such as typhoons — but also to factor in the creeping impacts of slow onset events — such as sea level rise and increasing temperature,” she said in an e-mail.

The Philippines is among the most disaster-prone countries in the world, experiencing typhoons, flash floods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The Philippines ranked first globally in terms of disaster risk, based on the World Risk Index 2022.

A study by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) showed that developing Asia will need to invest $26 trillion from 2016 to 2030, or $1.7 trillion annually in infrastructure to maintain its growth momentum, eradicate poverty, and adapt to climate change.

“Infrastructure designs especially in urban areas must also be responsive to the risks and projected creeping impacts of slow onset events. Infrastructure development must already look at innovative and sustainable solutions such as green and energy efficient buildings and build around nature-based solutions, such as trees as temperature regulators to trap urban heat, and sinks to arrest flooding,” Ms. Hilario added.

The public, particularly the most at-risk and vulnerable to climate change, should also be included in the process of designing resilient infrastructure.

“The industry must also welcome the voice and participation of the public, especially the most vulnerable and most affected sector in the design, as well as be more responsive in ensuring that infrastructure projects contribute to the broader goal of connecting more people, rather than creating barriers,” she said.

“Sustainability can only be fostered through partnerships not just between the industry, private sector, and the government, but with the buy-in of the Filipino public, who are the main users of infrastructure projects in the long-run,” she added.

#support #needed #infrastructures #postpandemic #recovery