World

Xi vs Biden, petrol prices in Lebanon, and Nigerian bank workers

Another week has passed and Friday has arrived. And no one can say this was a slow news week.

While millions are enjoying post-pandemic life in restaurants and bars and workout classes, the deadly Delta variant of the coronavirus now spreading in some parts of the globe is threatening to bring back restrictions, as concerns rise over skyrocketing infections from South Africa and Russia to France and Bangladesh.

Meanwhile, people in countries with higher vaccination rates are hitting the road. Petrol prices in the United States are at a seven-year high while in Lebanon people wait in line for hours to fill up their tanks. To make matters worse, the country’s energy minister lifted petrol subsidies, sending prices up by 35 percent this week.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and their allies are hashing out whether to add more oil barrels to the market to calm the hike in prices – currently $75 a barrel.

And speaking of highs, Wall Street’s main indexes hit records this week as the first half of the year came to a close.

As China celebrated the Community Party’s century-long rule on Thursday, we took a look at the serious economic challenges it is facing to avoid the dreaded “middle-income trap”.

We’ve also got the latest jobs numbers from the United States, the world’s largest economy – and news on the plight of contract bank workers in Nigeria, where unemployment is a blistering 33 percent.

So here are some of the numbers that mattered this week.

100

China’s Communist Party celebrated its 100th anniversary this week. But it’s not all hunky-dory as the nation’s leaders face mounting economic challenges, from falling birth rates and income inequality to rural-urban opportunity gaps.

China’s leaders steer clear of the phrase “middle-income trap” – a condition where a country fails to reach a higher, more developed status – but that’s where the country could end up if leaders fail to address those fissures. Al Jazeera’s Michael Standaert has that story here.

35 percent

Lebanon’s energy ministry dealt a serious blow to the already besieged pocketbooks of the country’s struggling consumers on Tuesday by raising fuel prices by more than 35 percent.

Lebanon is in the throes of an economic meltdown, one that has plunged half of the population into poverty and seen the country’s currency, the Lebanese pound, lose a mind-boggling 90 percent of its value since October 2019. And the World Bank has warned that the nation faces one of the world’s worst financial crises of the last 150 years. Frustration with the crisis has spilled into the streets with anti-government demonstrations and fights breaking out among people waiting in line for petrol. We take a deeper dive into that story here.

17

That’s how many advanced economies in Europe, North America and the Asia-Pacific region the Pew Research Center surveyed for its latest reading on how people view China and the US.

US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden visit a memorial put in place for the victims of the building collapse in Surfside, Florida, the United States [File: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

The survey found that positive views of the US enjoyed a bounce under President Joe Biden. In Germany, for example, only a quarter of people viewed the US positively last summer when then-President Donald Trump was in power. Today, some 56 percent of Germans view the US favourably.  On the flip side, negative views of China and its President Xi Jinping continue to hover at or near historic highs. Read more about the rankings here.

68,000

That’s the monthly salary in Nigerian naira ($165) of Basit, a 28-year-old who has worked at Fidelity Bank since 2015. Classified as a contractor rather than a full-time employee, Basit has no upward career path within the bank, or benefits such as insurance, a pension, or a severance package if he’s let go.

A man arranges books for sale on a pedestrian bridge where posters advertising jobs are pasted, in Lagos, Nigeria [File: Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters]

And he is far from alone. More than 42 percent of bank workers in Nigeria were contract staffers as of the third quarter last year, according to national data. Currently, employment opportunities in Africa’s largest economy are few and far between. Nigeria’s unemployment rate soared to 33.3 percent in the last three months of 2020 – among the highest in the world.  Al Jazeera’s Ope Adetayo has the story here.

850,000

That’s how many jobs the US economy added in June as wages continued to climb – as employers scramble to fill an historic number of job openings.

A Wendy’s restaurant displays a ‘now hiring’ sign in Tampa, Florida, the United States [File: Octavio Jones/Reuters]

June’s headline jobs number followed disappointing jobs creation earlier in the spring. Some believe that the $300-a-week federal top-up to state unemployment benefits has disincentivised the unemployed to go back to work. As a result, dozens of states have withdrawn or will soon withdraw from federal pandemic jobless programmes that include the top-up. But economists say other factors are also preventing the jobless from pounding the pavement in search of work. We’ve got that story for you fresh off the presses here.

$4.2bn

That is how much anti-LGBTQ laws are estimated to cost the Caribbean every year. A new report from Open for Business calculated that Caribbean nations lose an annual $4.2bn dollars in missing tourism, productivity and competitiveness to legislation that discriminates against LGBTQ people. The coalition of leading global companies dedicated to LGBT+ inclusion found that systemic discrimination and stigma leads to what researchers call LGBTQ “occupational segregation” – a condition in which one demographic group is over or underrepresented in certain jobs or fields, to the detriment of the broader economy. Al Jazeera’s Laurin-Whitney Gottbrath has that story here.




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