Tuesday, August 05, 2008

China overtakes U.S. to become Singapore's 3rd largest trade partner

SINGAPORE, Jan. 17 2008 Kyodo

China overtook the United States to become Singapore's third largest trading partner in 2007 amid sluggish growth in the U.S. economy, according to official data released Thursday.

China ranked third after Malaysia and the European Union, leaving the United States in the fourth position, International Enterprise Singapore, the national trade promotion agency, said at a news conference.

Indonesia ranked fifth and Japan sixth, it said.

''This is the first time China has overtaken the U.S.'' in Singapore's external trade, an IE Singapore official said.

The main factors included a slower U.S. economy and an increase in Singapore's exports to China that involved refined oil and petrochemicals.

Singapore's total external trade increased 4.5 percent to S$847 billion (US$259 billion) in 2007 after expanding 13 percent in 2006. The slower growth, below the 5-7 percent projected by the agency, was mainly due to weaker demand for electronics, one of Singapore's main exports.

Trade with China grew 7.4 percent to S$92 billion while trade with the United States declined 2.4 percent to S$88 billion.

Singapore's trade with the United States dropped in the second half of last year in line with a worsening U.S. economy and officials expressed concern over the possibility of a protracted U.S. economic recession this year.

''If there is a recession in the United States, Singapore would be affected, our trade figures will be affected,'' another IE Singapore official said. ''The U.S. market is still very important to us even though China has overtaken the United States.''

The agency is forecasting the country's external trade to grow between 6 to 8 percent this year due to optimism of strong demand from Asian countries such as China and India and the Southeast Asian region.

However, officials said the projection could be revised in the second half of this year if an expected recession in the United States is prolonged.

Besides refined oil and other petrochemical products due to Singapore's position as the world's third largest oil refinery, the city-state's other main exports are electronic products such as integrated circuits and disk drives and pharmaceuticals.

COPYRIGHT 2008 Kyodo News International, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Anger over £1bn Centrica profits (A case of consumer exploitation? Or just the incentive needed for more energy investments?)

from bbcworldservice.com
gas flame
A report for Centrica warns prices may rise even more

Consumer groups have expressed anger as British Gas owner Centrica revealed £5m-per-day profits, after announcing a record price hike on Wednesday.

Centrica defended the price rise, and pointed to the high wholesale gas costs that had cut its profits by 20% to £992m during the first half of 2008.

Energywatch said the size of Centrica's profits and the 35% price increase by British Gas would outrage consumers.

Age Concern warned that many pensioners would be unable to pay for winter fuel.

'Populist card'

The earnings report and anger at the planned price increase comes at a time when the UK is having to rethink the whole of its energy strategy.

Falling North Sea oil and gas production, coupled with record wholesale prices, have increased pressures on policymakers, companies and consumers.

Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks told the BBC that Centrica's results needed to be seen in context.

"I know as energy minister, we need massive investment in new energy infrastructure, power stations," he said.

"I'm not going to play a populist card saying profits are wrong when I know that profits are needed to invest in energy in the future to keep our lights on".

Fuel poverty

A committee of MPs recently warned that higher gas and electricity bills would have serious consequences for millions of households.

The committee was worried that the UK's energy markets were not functioning "as efficiently as they should".

After Centrica's results, a group of council leaders said energy suppliers should be subjected to a £500m annual charge to beat fuel poverty and cut carbon emissions.

Paul Bettision, chairman of the Local Government Association's environment board, said: "Energy companies are making massive profits at the expense of hard working families."

Centrica's move to increase prices on Wednesday came after EDF Energy raised prices last week. Analysts say other firms are likely to follow suit.


Adam Scorer, Energywatch's campaigns director, said households would be "staggered" at Centrica's profits.

He added that customers would be outraged "to learn that while they ponder how to make ends meet, Centrica's shareholders are enjoying an increase in their dividends".

Schwarzenegger Cuts 22,000 State Jobs Amid California's Fiscal Crisis (A wise move? Or a foolhardy one in these tough times?)

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger sets down the pen after signing an executive order eliminating 22,000 part-time and temporary positions and ordered that 200,000 state workers receive the federal minimum wage during a news conference at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., on Thursday, July 31, 2008. At the right is Director of California Department of Personnel Administration David Gilb..(AP Photo/Steve Yeater)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — With California's cash dwindling and legislators still debating a new budget, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger eliminated thousands of part-time and temporary state jobs Thursday and ordered that 200,000 state workers receive the federal minimum wage.

His move had been expected since last week but starkly illustrated the cash problem facing the nation's most populous state. Schwarzenegger apologized to state workers but said he had no choice.

"Today I am exercising my executive authority to avoid a full-blown crisis and keep our state moving forward," Schwarzenegger said. "This is not an action I take lightly."

The moves could save hundreds of millions of dollars a month, but whether full-time employees' paychecks will be cut is in doubt because the state controller, who cuts the checks, has said he will not comply with it.

Lawmakers have yet to agree on a spending plan a month after the state's fiscal year began.

Democratic and Republican lawmakers are divided over how to close a $15.2 billion deficit, with Democrats favoring $8.2 billion in new taxes on corporations and the wealthiest residents. Republicans want a spending cap and oppose tax increases.

Adding to the crisis was an unprecedented wildfire outbreak that cost far more for emergency response than the state had budgeted.

As of June, more than 30 states faced deficits totaling a projected $40 billion, or more than triple the gap of the previous year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Schwarzenegger's executive order eliminating jobs covers 22,000 retired state employees who work under contract, temporary and part-time workers such as those who fill in at the Department of Motor Vehicles, seasonal employees and student assistants. But Schwarzenegger's finance team said just 10,300 would receive pink slips immediately. The others might be exempted because their jobs are deemed crucial to public safety.


Assess the economic impact of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's move to cut 22,000 jobs from the public sector and to reduce the pay of 200,000 state workers.