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1 China sets 7.5% growth target (Linda Yueh on BBC) China has set its economic growth target for the year at 7.5%, as it looks to continue its efforts to stabilise the economy. The country also set its inflation goal at 3.5%, aimed at keeping prices in check. After years of blistering growth rates, China has seen its rate of expansion slide after a slowdown domestically and in key markets. In 2013, the country grew at a pace of 7.7%, about the same as in 2012. Recent manufacturing data has also indicated a slowdown in activity in the world’s second largest economy.
The latest targets were announced by Premier Li Keqiang in his first appearance at China’s annual parliamentary session, the National People’s Congress (NPC). China describes the NPC as the country’s “supreme organ of state power”. But in practice, it is generally considered a rubber stamping body for the ruling Communist Party.
Property purchases have been a popular investment choice in China – a trend that kept prices rising in 2013 and raised fears of a property bubble. China’s central bank acted late last year by tightening monetary conditions and reining in excessive lending growth.
2 Global PC shipments fall 10% (Brandon Carte in USA Today/Sydney Morning Herald) Global shipments of personal computers fell 9.8 per cent last year and are likely to decline by 6.1 per cent in 2014 due to lacklustre demand in developing countries, according to market research firm IDC. Last year’s 9.8 per cent decline has been the largest drop since IDC began tracking the data in 1994.
Unit volume of PCs is predicted to slip from 315.1 million units worldwide in 2013, to 291.7 million in 2018. IDC defines PCs as: “desktops, portables, mini notebooks and workstations.” This means the figures include netbooks but exclude tablets with detachable keyboards. This year, just 295.9 million PCs are expected to ship worldwide.
IDC also attributes declining sales to slower economic growth and conservative expectations for factors such as “touch capability, migration off of Windows XP, as well as continued pressure from tablets and smartphones”. Tablet sales appear to be slowing down as well. Preliminary figures suggest worldwide tablet shipments grew to 76.9 million units during the fourth calendar quarter of 2013, representing a 62 per cent growth quarter-over-quarter and 28 per cent growth year-over-year. But when comparing that to the growth figures released last year– 87.1 per cent from 2012 – it’s clear that’s a significant slowing of the tablet market as well.
3 Stalked by an online supermarket (Suzanne Moore in The Guardian) Call me cold, but lots of people seem to be having relationships with me that I don’t feel I am having with them. Only yesterday, some kind of leaflet popped through the door promising to turn me on. From an energy company? Yuck! This was as good as the glossy Valentine’s card from a lettings agency that just couldn’t wait to get its hands on my property … oooer missus.
This creeping interactive culture exists partly because of less face-to-face communication. But it is taking the form of intrusive and fake missives that appear to assume we are in a state of quasi-sexual excitement over that most mundane transaction, paying a gas bill.
Spike Jonze’s film, Her is clever because it is not about the future but about now, and it simply takes personalised intimate marketing to its logical conclusion. The central character falls in love with an operating system that has been tailored to meet his every need and has rifled though all his personal information. It makes him happy, so perhaps I need to loosen up and understand that my value can only be measured by those who sell me stuff, that the bonds I make with companies and supermarkets are deeply important, that the most excitement I can ever crave will come in the form of a discount from someone I never met.
Perhaps I just need to work harder on my part of the relationship: you shall know me by my purchases and my purchases alone. Or I could hope for a let up in this kind of harassment-marketing, and yearn for the days when the nearest I got to a personal message was the annual Christmas card from the Chinese take away: “Happy Christmas Moore.”
4 A T-shirt revolution to help Pakistan (Rafia Zakaria in Dawn) The days of American pullout from Afghanistan are near. With the exit from next door, a similar emptying is expected in Pakistan: the American turning away is likely to mean an end to the aid economies burgeoning in Islamabad and Kabul. When strategic interests of aid-granting countries divert to other portions of the world, projects die on stems, unable to be sustained by the societies they were designed to help.
If the US would implement a Free Trade Agreement with Pakistan, making it a preferential provider of cotton textile and garment manufacturing, it would radically transform the country and its economy. Investment in Pakistan’s textile and garment manufacturing infrastructure would have the potential to create millions of jobs and create a new middle class borne of the boom. Pakistan is already ninth in the world in exporting garments and textiles and ranks third among Asian countries in spinning capacity and fifth overall in the world. The potential framework for a cloth-borne revolution is thus already there, providing all the necessary ingredients for the sort of change that dribbles of aid could never hope for.
A Pakistan given the trade and tariff incentives that would allow it to become a major supplier in the market would be a Pakistan transformed, where the future would be embraced not on the backs of aid-borne artifice but on trade-borne truth. The idea is not a novel one. Last year the European Union’s Generalised System of Preferences Scheme selected Pakistan to be the recipient of concessions in export duties of 6,000 tariff lines to the European Union. Leading among these goods are Pakistani home textiles such as bed linens, towels, table linen, and kitchen linen, as well as hosiery and textile garments.
The hope for better futures, one made of towels and T-shirts, can galvanise a different direction in Pakistan. With its ability to employ, it can foment a trade-borne transformation and produce a local and organic groundswell away from the backwardness of terror and towards the progress of the future.
5 Singapore must avoid spending folly: PM (Straits Times) Singapore must never fall into the same hole as some countries which spend more than they can earn, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a Facebook post. He warned that doing so would drag down the economy and burden future generations. Instead, Singapore should keep its economy vibrant and live within its means.
It is only through doing so that the Government will be able to provide help and assurance to all and keep Singapore a nation of opportunities, he said.