PM issues China directive
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has instructed civil servants to make plans to end the UK’s reliance on China for vital medical supplies and other strategic imports in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Times reported yesterday. The plans, which have been code named “Project Defend,” include identifying the UK’s main economic vulnerabilities to potentially hostile foreign governments as part of a broader new approach to national security, the newspaper reported, adding that the efforts are being led by Secretary of Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Dominic Raab. Two working groups have been set up as part of the project, according to the report, with one source telling the Times that the aim was to diversify supply lines to no longer depend on individual countries for non-food essentials. Johnson told lawmakers that he would take steps to protect Britain’s technological base, with the government review also expected to include personal protective equipment and drugs, the report said.
Borrowing sets record
Britain’s government last month borrowed more than it has done in any month on record, pushing up a measure of public debt to close to 100 percent of economic output. April’s borrowing of ￡62.1 billion (US$75.80 billion) was six times higher than in the same month last year and March’s figure was revised up sharply to almost ￡15 billion as the government’s emergency job-saving scheme began. Public debt, including the Bank of England’s massive bond-buying, jumped to nearly 98 percent of GDP, reflecting higher borrowing and a lower estimate of the size of the economy based on a scenario by Britain’s budget forecasters. That was the highest share of GDP by that measure since 1963, the Office for National Statistics said. The office also said that British retail sales last month fell by the most on record, as much of the sector was shuttered by the government’s COVID-19 lockdown.
IBM reduces US workforce
International Business Machines Corp (IBM) cut an unspecified number of jobs across the US, eliminating employees in at least five states. The company declined to comment on the total number, but the workforce reductions appear far-reaching. “IBM’s work in a highly competitive marketplace requires flexibility to constantly add high-value skills to our workforce. While we always consider the current environment, IBM’s workforce decisions are in the interest of the long-term health of our business,” company spokesman Ed Barbini said in a statement on Thursday. IBM is offering subsidized medical coverage to all affected US employees through June next year, he said.
Nissan planning job cuts
Nissan Motor Co is planning to cut more than 20,000 jobs across the world as the Japanese automaker grapples with factories and showrooms that have been shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kyodo News reported. The outbreak is forcing Nissan to cut back on production and restructuring measures in Japan are also being considered, the news agency reported. The job reductions are part of a mid-term reorganization plan that Nissan is due to unveil on Thursday next week, Kyodo said. The reduction is much larger than the 12,500 staff cuts Nissan announced in the middle of last year.
Australia’s largest newspaper publisher, News Corp, yesterday announced that most of its suburban and regional mastheads nationwide would next month become digital-only due to the COVID-19 pandemic and digital platforms sharing their content. News Corp Australasia executive chairman Michael Miller described the shift that is to take effect on June 29 as significant and said that jobs would be lost, but did not say how many. “COVID-19 has impacted the sustainability of community and regional publishing. Despite the audiences of News Corp’s digital mastheads growing more than 60 percent as Australians turned to trusted media sources during the peak of the recent
PLANNED OUT: The government is lifting sale and export restrictions on 60% of the 20 million masks made daily, but people can still make purchases using their NHI cards Twenty thousand boxes of 50 masks each would be on sale at FamilyMart convenience stores starting tomorrow, Taiwan FamilyMart Co Ltd (全家便利商店) said yesterday. A box of 50 masks would cost NT$249 for those with FamilyMart memberships and NT$299 for those without, with no limits placed on how many boxes a person can buy, the company said. Convenience store chain operator Hi-Life International Co Ltd (萊爾富) said that it would also start selling masks from tomorrow. It has yet to announce details about prices and quantity. Hypermarket chain operator Carrefour Taiwan (家樂福) said that it would start selling packs of five
BOOSTING BUYING: A source said that the idea of pre-ordering vouchers online is being considered, but the preliminary plan is for people to buy them at post offices A stimulus voucher program to be rolled out next month to boost consumption would be available not only to Taiwanese, but also foreign nationals and Chinese spouses who hold residency permits, a source familiar with the matter said yesterday. The government is fine-tuning the details of the program, which involves issuing vouchers for in-store purchases to revive buying amid the COVID-19 pandemic. During a radio interview on Monday last week, National Development Council (NDC) Minister Kung Ming-hsin (龔明鑫) said that the plan is to allow anyone, regardless of age or income level, to buy NT$3,000 (US$99.89) worth of vouchers for
Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp (THSRC, 台灣高鐵) is expected to recover quickly from the effects of COVID-19, as life returns to normal and thanks to the government’s domestic travel incentives, Yuanta Securities Investment Consulting Co (元大投顧) said in a note on Friday. THSRC’s business might have bottomed out after revenue fell 49.83 percent year-on-year to NT$2.03 billion (US$67.59 million) in April, the lowest in nearly 10 years, while combined revenue in the first four months dropped 26.44 percent to NT$11.63 billion, as the COVID-19 outbreak reduced ridership, the investment consultancy said. “The worst should be over in April as domestic tourism