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COVID-19 forces restaurants, retailers to cut wages, furlough employees

first_imgIndonesia’s restaurant chains and retailers are struggling to fulfill their obligations to their employees while trying to keep their business afloat amid the COVID-19 pandemic.Publicly listed PT Fast Food Indonesia, the operator of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) chains in Indonesia, said in a statement last Friday that it closed 97 stores across the country as several shopping malls were forced to shut down operations due to the pandemic.“Besides the stores inside the malls, our other stores are still operational, serving customers for takeaway, delivery and drive-thru services and closing dine-in services,” the company said in a statement published on the Indonesia Stock Exchange (IDX) website. Topics : “Based on the agreement with our labor union, we will adjust the wages of our employees who are still working as usual during the COVID-19 pandemic period,” it said in the statement, adding that the company would reduce wages with the biggest reduction seen in upper senior management salaries.The company and the union also agreed to reduce and delay some employees’ Idul Fitri holiday bonuses (THR) this year with the biggest reduction applied to those at the upper senior management level.Coordinating Economic Minister Airlangga Hartarto reminded businesses earlier this month that they were obligated pay out the THR to their employees despite the economic pressures caused by the pandemic.The operator for the Pizza Hut restaurant chain in Indonesia, PT Sarimelati Kencana, was also doing its best not to dismiss employees even though the pandemic had forced it to close some stores, director Jeo Sasanto said.“We’ve asked some of our employees who work in the closed-down stores to take paid leave, while we placed some others in operating outlets or our delivery services,” he told The Jakarta Post on Monday, adding that the publicly listed company had closed around 30 outlets across Indonesia with most of them located inside shopping malls.When asked about employee wages, Jeo said the company had yet to determine the wages and holiday bonus adjustments for this year. “We are still having internal discussions on the matter,” he said.The wave of wage cuts and furloughs also swept over the country’s retailers, including publicly listed companies PT Ramayana Lestari Sentosa and PT Matahari Department Store.In a statement published on the IDX website on April 14, Ramayana said it had furloughed all of its employees at its store in Depok, West Java, on April 6 following a decision to temporarily close shop.“After several meetings with the employees on furlough conditions failed to reach an agreement, we and the employees agreed to end the employment of all 84 of them and pay their severance payments as stipulated in the Labor Law,” Ramayana explained in the statement.It also promised to re-hire the laid-off workers once the store begins operating again.Ramayana said without specifying an amount that it had closed some of its stores. As of September 2019, the company operated 117 stores across Indonesia with a total area of 726,148 square meters.Last month, publicly listed Matahari Department Store announced that it was reducing labor expenses to keep its business alive amid the pandemic.“[…] we are reducing labor expenses through a combination of reduced working hours, unpaid leave and management salary cuts, with senior leaders taking the biggest reduction,” it said in a statement on March 31. center_img Fast Food Indonesia operated 689 KFC stores across Indonesia. Around 233 stores were located inside shopping malls, 41 in food courts and 210 were inline stores set up between the end caps of shopping centers.The COVID-19 outbreak in the country has disrupted business activity and hit demand with customers staying at home following the government’s call to practice social distancing and the large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) implemented in several cities and provinces nationwide to contain the virus. As of Monday, more than 9,000 people contracted the disease in Indonesia with the death toll reaching at least 760, according to official data.As a consequence of the stores closing, Fast Food Indonesia said it furloughed 450 employees in its stores across Java after trying its best to avoid layoffs. The company said the furloughed workers still received their wages albeit with adjustments.As many as 2.8 million people have lost their jobs so far, according to data from the Manpower Ministry and the Workers Social Security Agency (BPJS Ketenagakerjaan). More than half were furloughed and placed on paid or unpaid leave.last_img read more

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Pentagon’s deputy inspector general resigns; latest in watchdog role to depart

first_img“I believe the time has come for me to step down and allow others to perform this vital role,” Fine said in a statement.”The role of Inspectors General is a strength of our system of government. They provide independent oversight to help improve government operations in a transparent way,” Fine added.Fine had been performing the duties of the Pentagon’s lead inspector general when he was removed by Trump in early April. In that role, he had been charged with overseeing the government’s $2.3 trillion coronavirus response before Trump removed him.Fine reverted to being the No. 2 official in the inspector general’s office after his ouster as the acting inspector general. Democratic lawmakers praised Fine and said his resignation was a blow to accountability.”There can be no doubt that this is a direct result of President Trump’s actions,” Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, who leads the Committee on Oversight and Reform, said on Tuesday.Earlier in May, Trump ousted Christi Grimm, who led the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General. He accused her of having produced a “fake dossier” on shortages at American hospitals on the frontlines of the coronavirus outbreak.Grimm was testifying before a congressional committee on Tuesday.In April, the Republican president notified Congress that he was firing Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the US intelligence community. Atkinson was involved in triggering a probe last year that resulted in Trump’s impeachment.  Topics :center_img The Defense Department’s deputy inspector general resigned on Tuesday, more than a month after President Donald Trump removed him as the Pentagon’s acting inspector general, becoming the latest official in a federal oversight role to depart.Glenn Fine’s resignation comes after the Trump administration removed him and three other government inspectors general, who seek to root out government waste, fraud and abuse, in recent weeks.Most recently the State Department’s inspector general, Steve Linick, was fired. That ousting prompted heavy criticism from senior Democratic lawmakers.last_img read more

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Why the US is experiencing a coronavirus plateau

first_imgWhen epidemiologists talked about “flattening the curve,” they probably didn’t mean it this way: the US hit its peak coronavirus caseload in April, but since that time the graph has been on a seemingly unending plateau.That’s unlike several other hard-hit countries which have successfully pushed down their numbers of new cases, including Spain and Italy, which now have bell-shaped curves.Experts say the prolonged nature of the US epidemic is the result of the cumulative impact of regional outbreaks, as the virus that started out primarily on the coasts and in major cities moves inward. Layered on top of that are the effects of lifting lockdowns in parts of the country that are experiencing rising cases, as well as a lapse in compliance with social distancing guidelines because of economic hardship, and in some cases a belief that the threat is overstated.”The US is a large country both in geography and population, and the virus is at very different stages in different parts of the country,” Tom Frieden, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told AFP.The US saw more than 35,000 new cases for several days in April. While that figure has declined, it has still been exceeding 20,000 regularly in recent days.By contrast, Italy was regularly hitting more than 5,000 cases per day in March but is currently experiencing figures in the low hundreds. Topics : “We did not act quickly and robustly enough to stop the virus spreading initially, and data indicate that it travelled from initial hotspots along major transport routes into other urban and rural areas,” added Frieden, now CEO of the non-profit Resolve to Save Lives. To wit: the East Coast states of New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts accounted for about 50 percent of all cases until about a month or so ago — but now the geographic footprint of the US epidemic has shifted to the Midwest and southeast, including Florida.center_img Still not enough testing Another key problem, said Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins, is that the United States is still not doing enough testing, contact tracing and isolation.After coming late to the testing party — for reasons ranging from technical issues to regulatory hurdles — the US has now conducted more COVID-19 tests than any other country.It even has one of the highest per capita rates per country of 62 per 1,000 people, according to the website ourworldindata.org — better than Germany (52 per 1,000) and South Korea (20 per 1,000).But according to Nuzzo, these numbers are misleading, because “the amount of testing that a country should do should be scaled to the size of its epidemic.”The United States has the largest epidemic in the world so obviously we need to do a lot more testing than any other country.”For Johns Hopkins, the more important metric is the positivity rate — that is, out of all tests conducted, how many came back positive for COVID-19.As of June 7, the United States had an average daily positivity rate of 14 percent, well above the World Health Organization guideline of 5 percent over two weeks before social distancing guidelines should be relaxed.By contrast, Germany, which has tested far fewer people in relation to its population, has a positivity rate of 5 percent. Social behavior Even if testing were scaled up, carrying out tests in of itself does very little good without the next steps — finding out who was exposed and then asking them to isolateHere also, too many US states are lagging woefully behind. Texas, which is experiencing a surge in cases after relaxing its lockdown, is a case in point. The state targeted hiring a modest 4,000 tracers by June, but according to local reports is still more than a thousand shy of even that goal.Opt-in app based efforts have also been slow to get off the ground.Then there is the fact that some people are growing tired of lockdowns, while others don’t have the economic luxury of being able to stay home for prolonged periods.The government sent some 160 million Americans a single stimulus check of up to $1,200 back in April but it’s not clear whether more will be forthcoming.Still others, particularly in so-called red states under Republican leadership, have chafed under restrictions and mask-wearing guidelines that they see as an affront to their personal freedom.”The US is kind of on the extreme of the individual liberty side,” Sten Vermund, dean of the Yale School of Public Health, told AFP.Part of this has to do with mixed messaging from Republican leaders, including President Donald Trump, said Nuzzo.”We have had at the highest political level an assertion that this is a situation that’s been overblown, and that maybe certain protective behaviors are not necessary,” she said.More recently, tens of thousands of people across the country have taken to the streets to protest the killing on an unarmed black man by police, risking coronavirus infection to demonstrate against the public health threat of racialized state violence.last_img read more

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Govt housing subsidy program hampers market growth, World Bank says

first_imgIt has also launched a public housing savings program (Tapera), which requires employers and workers to contribute to a mortgage loan scheme similar to universal healthcare insurance.However, the lower-than market interest rate made possible by the subsidy has also made it impossible for private lenders to compete in the housing market, the World Bank warned.The mortgage subsidy allows eligible low-income households to pay mortgage interest rates of 5 percent for a 20-year tenure, far lower than private banks interest rates of around 7 to 9 percent for the first three to five years, the World Bank highlighted.“The subsidy program is designed to distort the housing market, as lenders cannot compete against the FLPP and SSB schemes,” Harrison said.The Washington-based development lender also warned that the SSB loan program mechanism created Rp 7.5 trillion in future liability per year from interest gap payments for 140,000 homes. Between 2015 and 2018, the government accumulated Rp 30 trillion in future liabilities, the World Bank estimates.Responding to the report, the Public Works and Housing Ministry’s financing strategy director Herry Trisaputra Zuna stated that the housing market still required the government’s intervention in the form of subsidies.“The housing market is not ideal, so we cannot rely solely on the market and need to make some interventions,” he said during the same webinar.Herry said the World Bank’s recommendation could also not address the government’s main issue with the country’s housing program, which was lack of funding.“Our problem is we have limited money now, and that’s why we have to modify installments for the mortgage-linked down payment assistance [BP2BT] program,” he said.Real Estate Indonesia (REI) also stated in April that the sector relied heavily on subsidized housing programs, which account for half of the industry’s revenue, according to the association members data.Topics : In addition, the KPR property price cap has also led to developers building houses that are located outside of metro areas to bring down prices. According to World Bank data, 57 percent of FLPP-subsidized housing units were located in rural areas in 2017, a huge increase from 36 percent in 2016.Hence, the housing market’s share of national GDP has stagnated at 3 percent for the last five years, falling behind neighboring countries such as the Philippines and Cambodia, where the housing market’s share of GDP is above 4 percent, Harrison said.The government has been struggling to reduce the country’s housing backlog, which stood at 7.6 million in 2015. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration aims to build 1.25 million houses this year to fulfill its commitment to build 1 million houses per year, partially aided by the mortgage subsidy program. Since 2015, the beginning of Jokowi’s tenure, around 4.8 million houses have been constructed, and his administration plans to build an additional 3.9 million houses by 2024.In April, the government rolled out new housing loan subsidies amid the COVID-19 pandemic for 175,000 low-income families nationwide and increased the salary ceiling for eligible recipients to Rp 8 million for all types of housing from the previous Rp 4 million for landed houses and Rp 7 million for low-cost apartments. The government’s housing subsidy program designed to resolve the country’s mounting backlog might backfire by hampering property industry growth and leading to the construction of lower quality homes, the World Bank has warned.World Bank housing specialist Dao Harrison warned on June 25 that the government’s ongoing housing mortgage (KPR) subsidy programs such as the Housing Financing Liquidity Facility (FLPP) and interest rate subsidies for loan installments (SSB), which are reserved for landed houses at around Rp 160 million (US$11,306), slowed lending growth and discouraged developers from building high-quality homes.“Our survey shows that KPR consumers aspire to purchase houses at a far higher price at Rp 300 million. Developers could build better homes worth an additional Rp 140 million on top of the maximum KPR property price and lenders could provide more lending to homeowners, but they don’t,” Harrison said during an online presentation of World Bank’s latest report published on June 22.last_img read more

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Japan’s economy to shrink 4.7% in 2020/21: Central bank

first_img“Overall, there is no doubt that the economy is bottoming out and is on a recovery phase,” Kuroda said.”But after this, the speed [of recovery] will slow and I expect that we will see a gradual recovery.”Officials also see Japan’s core consumer prices falling 0.5 percent for the year to March, well below the government’s target of stable 2.0 percent inflation to foster sustainable growth.The central bank said it would maintain its massive monetary easing program, leaving short-term rates at minus 0.1 percent while keeping long-term rates around zero percent.”We will take additional easing measures with no hesitation if necessary,” Kuroda pledged. “Japan’s economy is likely to improve gradually from the second half of this year with economic activity resuming, but the pace is expected to be only moderate while the impact of the novel coronavirus remains worldwide,” the BoJ said in a statement.The bank said it expected the global economy to recover steadily, projecting Japanese GDP would expand 3.3 percent in the year to March 2022, before logging 1.5 percent growth in the following fiscal year.But it also stressed that “the outlook… is extremely unclear” with its assumptions involving “high uncertainties”.Capital investment is relatively solid, but consumption remains low particularly in the services sector that requires face-to-face interactions, BoJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda told reporters. Topics :center_img Japan’s economy will contract 4.7 percent in the year to March 2021, the central bank said Wednesday, projecting a recovery the following year but warning that deep uncertainty remains.The fresh outlook, with policymakers giving a range of contraction from 5.7 to 4.5 percent, is a downgrade from an April range of between 5.0 percent and 3.0 percent.The Bank of Japan was hopeful of a future recovery but said the outlook was shrouded by possible future waves of the virus, which made calculations difficult.last_img read more

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South Africa virus cases rise over 300,000

first_imgSouth Africa’s coronavirus cases inched over 300,000 on Wednesday, the health ministry said, as the continent’s worst-affected country hurtles towards an expected peak of infections.”We have exceeded the 300,000 mark to reach a cumulative total of 311,049 confirmed COVID-19 cases in South Africa,” Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said in a statement.An additional 107 fatalities were also reported on Wednesday, bringing the total number of deaths up to 4,453. More than half of the country’s COVID-19 patients have recovered from the virus.”We are now facing a real rise in infections,” Ramaphosa said earlier on Wednesday, noting growing pressure on “challenged” health facilities.The president re-imposed a night curfew and a controversial alcohol sales ban on Sunday to ease pressure on hospitals.Those restrictions had been gradually lifted after a strict seven-week lockdown.”It gave us an opportunity to prepare, to prepare our health facilities to be able to deal and cope with the rising infections,” Ramaphosa assured.”Now that infections are rising our health facilities… face challenges,” he said, adding that alcohol sales had been suspended to limit the number of “people who go to hospital with trauma incidents”. Over 35 percent of cases were recorded in Gauteng province — South Africa’s financial hub and epicenter of the outbreak, which also accounts for the highest number of deaths.President Cyril Ramaphosa last week warned that the “coronavirus storm” South Africa faced was “far fiercer and more destructive than any we have known before”. The country is the hardest-hit in Africa, followed by Egypt with just under 85,000 confirmed cases and 4,067 deaths to date.South Africa’s mortality rate has remained low, however, at just under 1.5 percent on Wednesday.center_img Topics :last_img read more

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Vanda’s experimental COVID-19 drug shows promise in interim trial data

first_imgCOVID-19 patients with pneumonia improved faster when treated with Vanda Pharmaceuticals Inc’s experimental therapy than those on placebo, the company said on Tuesday, citing an interim analysis of data from a late-stage study.Shares of the US drug developer rose over 13% before the opening bell.While the data from 60 patients showed that a 14-day treatment with the drug, tradipitant, helped speed up clinical improvements by day seven, the company warned a larger patient size was needed to confirm the benefit. So far, Gilead Sciences Inc’s antiviral remdesivir and the generic steroid dexamethasone have been shown to help patients with COVID-19 in rigorous clinical trials.The US drug developer, which licensed tradipitant from Eli Lilly and Co in 2012, eventually plans to enroll 300 patients in the late-stage trial.The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has imposed a partial clinical hold on tradipitant trials that are longer than 12 weeks, citing the need for additional studies before testing the drug in humans beyond that timeframe. A US court sided with the FDA in January over a legal dispute related to the agency’s decision.The drug is also being tested as a treatment for various conditions including atopic dermatitis and motion sickness. The company says the drug targets a receptor in the body that could be associated with causing lung injury.Vanda said the drug’s properties as an anti-inflammatory agent would complement antiviral drugs for COVID-19, if the results from its analysis were confirmed.Topics :last_img read more

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Survey finds most Britons reject COVID-19 ‘vaccine nationalism’

first_img“While this virus thrives anywhere, it threatens people everywhere.”The World Health Organization called last week for an end to “vaccine nationalism” and warned against “hoarding” as a growing number of countries agreed bilateral deals to buy millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines.The One Campaign poll results found that of more than 2,000 people surveyed, 82% said a country that develops a COVID-19 vaccine should share that knowledge, and 76% think COVID-19 shots should be available in all countries at the same time.More than 80% think that when a COVID-19 vaccine is available, it should be distributed in the most effective way to beat the pandemic globally. Some 71% think that if it means the pandemic could be ended more quickly, health workers in Britain and then other countries should get vaccines first, even if healthy people at home have to wait a bit longer. Most Britons reject COVID-19 “vaccine nationalism”, and say they would be willing to wait until health workers in other countries have had vaccines if that would help end the pandemic sooner, according to poll findings released on Monday.Conducted in mid-August by polling firm Savanta ComRes for anti-poverty organization The ONE Campaign, the survey found significant public support for COVID-19 vaccines being made available to all countries at the same time, regardless of how rich or powerful they are.”British people clearly understand this global pandemic demands a global response. It simply won’t work for each country to go its own way,” said Romilly Greenhill, The ONE’s UK director. Topics :last_img read more

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Facebook Shops launches in Indonesia amid COVID-19 shock to MSMEs

first_imgFacebook launched on Tuesday for Indonesian users its e-commerce feature, Facebook Shops, which integrates business accounts across all platforms of the social media giant while offering data analytics for online shop owners.Facebook Indonesia country director Peter Lydian told reporters at virtual press conference on Sept. 1 that the new feature was now available to Instagram business accounts and Facebook users in the country.Peter said that Indonesia was one of five countries in the world with the highest number of Instagram business accounts, which meant that Facebook Shops would be an impactful feature for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). “We have developed our platform to become a catalyst for MSME development. Through Facebook Shops, we can provide market access and connect businesses with communities,” he said.MSMEs, which contribute more than 50 percent to Indonesia’s gross domestic product (GDP), have been particularly hard hit by the economic fallout from the pandemic.According to a recent survey by the University of Indonesia business school’s Demography Institute (LD-FEUI), 77 percent of social sellers –  people who create and pursue sales leads using social media – expected current revenue pressures to continue for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.Indonesia’s GDP contracted 5.32 percent year-on-year in the second quarter, according to Statistics Indonesia (BPS) data. Meanwhile, the government’s best-case scenario projects 1 percent growth this year, or to shrink to 0.4 percent in its worst-case scenario. The new digital storefront feature integrates a business’ Instagram account with its Facebook account to allow it to expand customer reach. The feature also comes with the Facebook Commerce Manager tool that allows shop owners to customize and manage their digital storefronts.Peter said shop owners could also gather aggregate data on their customers through Facebook Shops, such as customer demographics including location and age, that could help businesses expand and develop.The data also provided information on “what [kinds of] posts people like and when [customers] typically go online”, he added.Peter stressed, however, that Facebook did not collect customers’ personal data for sharing with shop owners without their consent.“We don’t share personal information like names and email addresses. User activity on Facebook Shop will also not be shared with [Facebook] friends without user consent,” he said.Facebook has faced global scrutiny on digital privacy issues in recent years, including a $5 billion settlement with the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in July 2019 for a wide range of privacy violations, and the 2018 Cambridge Analytica data misappropriation scandal dating back at least three years that was uncovered in the United Kingdom.The company has vowed to provide “a comprehensive new framework for protecting people’s privacy”, according to Reuters.Topics :last_img read more

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LA Lakers crush Miami Heat to win 17th NBA title

first_imgShortly before the game, Los Angeles guard Danny Green said he wasn’t fazed to receive death threats on social media after missing a late three-pointer in the Lakers’ game-five loss to Miami in the NBA Finals.Green said he and fiancee Blair Bashen, a former collegiate volleyball player, had both received threats after the Lakers were unable to clinch a title on Friday.”I had to ask, ‘Are you getting death threats?’ And she said, ‘Yeah, you are too,’ and I was like, I don’t know, because I don’t really pay attention or care,” Green told reporters after Sunday’s shootaround prior to game six in the NBA’s quarantine bubble in Orlando, Florida.”Nor am I upset, shaken or worried about it,” Green said, adding that he’s become used to social media bullying. The Los Angeles Lakers dominated the Miami Heat 106-93 on Sunday to win a record-equalling 17th NBA championship but their first since 2010.Superstar LeBron James fueled the Lakers with a triple-double of 28 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists, capturing his fourth NBA title with a third different team.Anthony Davis added 19 points and 15 rebounds as the Lakers completed a four-games-to-two triumph in the best-of-seven championship series in the NBA quarantine bubble in Orlando. “Those people’s opinions don’t matter to me,” Green said. “Only people in that locker room and on this roster are the opinions that are relevant and that matter to me. And if they’re still confident in me and still encouraged and still believe in me and believe in us, that’s all that matters to me: that we can get this thing done,” he said.The Lakers trailed by one point when Green missed a wide-open three-pointer with 7.1 seconds remaining in the game.Markieff Morris grabbed the rebound but accidentally threw the ball out of bounds and the Heat went on to win 111-108 and Green said his close call made him an “easy target” for frustrated Lakers fans.”Basketball-wise, it was a good look,” Green said of the shot. “I had more time than I realized, should have took more time, probably rushed it a little bit, a little off balance.”But we got a good look, we got a second opportunity and if I could get that play back again, I’d give anything to get that shot back again. Trust me.”Lakers superstar LeBron James, who was under heavy pressure under the basket when he passed the ball out to Green on the perimeter, said Green’s shot not falling was just something that happens in basketball.”Danny had a hell of a look,” James said. “It just didn’t go down. I know he wishes he could have it again. I wish I could make a better pass. You just live with it.”Topics :last_img read more