1 China, Venezuela in oil & mineral deal (BBC) Chinese President Xi Jinping has signed a series of oil and mineral deals with Venezuela. They include a $4bn credit line in return for Venezuelan crude and other products. The agreements came on the latest stop of a four-country visit to Latin America. Mr Xi has already signed key deals in Argentina and Brazil. He has now departed from Venezuela and will visit Cuba next.
In Argentina the Chinese leader agreed to an $11bn currency swap providing much needed money for the government of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. Argentina has been locked out of the international capital markets since a default in 2001. Mr Xi also helped launch a new development bank alongside the other emerging powers of the Brics group – Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa – at a summit in Brazil. The new bank is intended to create an alternative to the Western-dominated World Bank.
Chinese trade with Latin America has grown rapidly. It is now the second-largest trading partner in Argentina and Cuba, and has been Brazil’s largest since 2009. China is the second-largest market for Venezuelan oil after the US. Analysts say the underlying purpose of the visit has been to secure more natural resources from Latin American countries to fuel China’s long term economic expansion.
2 Carlos Slim moots three-day working week (Helen Davidson in The Guardian) Mexican billionaire tycoon, Carlos Slim, has called for the introduction of a three-day working week, offset by longer hours and a later retirement, as a way to improve people’s quality of life and create a more productive labour force. Slim suggested that the workforce could be spread over a full week, with employees working up to 10 or 11 hours a day.
“With three work days a week, we would have more time to relax; for quality of life,” the Financial Times reports Slim saying. “Having four days [off] would be very important to generate new entertainment activities and other ways of being occupied,” Slim said. He said current retirement ages come from a time of lower life expectancies, and should rise to 70 or 75.
Slim – routinely identified as one of the two richest people in the world – is the CEO of Telmex, a fixed phone line communications company which recently offered its employees a new form of contract. Telmex employees who joined in their teens can access early retirement, and anyone who wants to work beyond retirement can do so at full pay but a reduced load of four days a week. Slim, who is also the head of mining company Minera Frisco, is estimated to have a personal net worth of $80bn – around the same as Bill Gates.
Some small companies in Australia have instituted a four-day week flexible workplace policy, and advocates cite improvements in employee health and environmental impact as possible benefits.
3 Streaming music and the death of CDs (David Einstein in San Francisco Chronicle) I don’t play CDs anymore, and I certainly wouldn’t buy any. Why should I? I can listen to my music anywhere – on my phone, or on a Bluetooth speaker, using the phone as a remote control – without ever taking a CD out of its jewel case. I subscribe to Google’s All Access streaming music service. For $10 a month, I get instant access to more than 20 million songs, and I’ve created a Library on Google Play for the music I like.
It’s no wonder that CD sales are locked in a death spiral. Streaming music subscription services like Google All Access, Spotify and Beats Music (recently acquired by Apple) are doing to CDs what CDs did to vinyl LPs a generation ago (and what LPs did to brittle plastic records a generation before that).