Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Weak productivity may hit living standards; Without phones, Blackberry posts profit; 'The state has let millennials down'

1 Weak productivity growth may hit living standards (Straits Times) Living standards around the world could fall unless governments invest more in research and education that can help revive weak productivity growth, International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde has warned.

Ms Lagarde said that the private sector alone will not be able to generate enough innovation to lift productivity to acceptable levels without government help. Her remarks were accompanied by the release of an IMF study that found the 2008-2009 financial crisis and deep recession played a bigger role in slowing productivity than previously thought, stifling global demand and investment.
Economists, who see productivity gains as essential for sustaining higher wages and living standards, 

have struggled to explain a protracted slowdown in productivity growth since the early 2000s. Ms Lagarde said the post-crisis recession has left a "permanent scar" on output per worker and total factor productivity, a broad measure of innovation that includes both labour and capital inputs.

She said all governments should do more to unleash entrepreneurial energy, including cutting barriers to competition, investing in education and providing tax incentives for research and development.

2 Without phones, Blackberry posts profit (Dawn) After three years of acquisitions, layoffs and trying to convince customers it could do more than build smartphones, the Canadian company’s software revenue and profit margins are growing in the way Chief Executive Officer John Chen wants them to. The stock too: It rose the most in 15 months.

BlackBerry surpassed its target of $640 million in software revenue for fiscal 2017, achieving Chen’s goal of increasing sales from that division by 30 per cent in the year. It posted profit of 4 cents a share, beating out the highest estimate from analysts, and said it would be profitable for its entire fiscal 2018, which began this month.

BlackBerry shed the burden of its ever-shrinking phone business by officially outsourcing all device design, production and sales to other companies last year – a move that won’t see dividends until the products actually start selling later this year.

The firm has also been developing software for self-driving automobiles and has a formal partnership with Ford involving in-car connectivity. Earlier this week, Ford agreed to hire 400 of BlackBerry’s mobile tech experts to work on connected cars.

Now the challenge is selling BlackBerry’s suite of security-focused software products, which range from tools that help companies track their employees’ mobile devices to computer operating systems for guided missiles. Chen said on the call that BlackBerry is starting to attract companies beyond its core client base in financial services, healthcare and government.

3 ‘The state has let millennials down’ (Jonno Revanche in The Guardian) If the 2000s has taught us anything, let this one point stand out above the others – young people are reshaping democracy just as we create the most absurd memes, syntax, and viral movements you could possibly think of.

For context: it kind of broke my heart to see a US citizen on my Twitter timeline recently made a joke about “crowdfunding an abortion” in the wake of efforts to repeal Obamacare. It was disheartening to see a tweet like that which was off-handed, and frighteningly casual.

That sentiment is not so much humorous on its own terms as much as it blatantly reflects how our generation has become so accustomed to danger, instability and financial stress. In a world of economic uncertainty, we simply have no choice but to develop our own methods of dealing with it. Laughing it off is basically just a given at this point.

In the post-financial crisis world, the experience of our everyday is laden with anxiety and existential dread about unemployment rates, which obviously affects our stability and wellbeing. This is without even mentioning rent prices, housing affordability in general and the rising fees for tertiary education.

In an era of welfare cutbacks, young people have responded by crowdfunding the needs of their peers. This form of selfless community organisation flies in the face of what older generations would have us believe about selfish, lazy millennials, but nobody should be surprised – a recent YouGov study in Australia showed that respondents under 30 were those most supportive of socialism and wealth redistribution over capitalism in comparison to other ages.

I see the way my generation recognises each other’s humanity and how we create solutions when it seems like things are hopeless as a positive. But just because that comes out of necessity, that doesn’t mean we don’t understand each other’s deep-seated value in a difficult world. Most importantly of all, it certainly doesn’t mean that the government has no responsibility to fix these systems and directly address these issues.

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