Sunday, June 4, 2017

South Korea launches stimulus package; A world of crypto-anarchists; Global beer sales drying up

1 South Korea launches stimulus package (Straits Times) South Korea's new government has announced a 11.2 trillion won fiscal stimulus package, increasing social welfare subsidies and taking the first steps to deliver on President Moon Jae-in's key election promise - to create 810,000 public sector jobs.

The stimulus package allocates 5.4 trillion won to create public sector and social services jobs, including places for fire fighters, teachers and postal workers, the finance ministry said. Another 2.3 trillion won will be used to provide subsidies for maternity leave and for elderly people needing medical care.

The government estimates the extra spending will boost economic growth by 0.2 percentage point this year, which may raise its 2017 outlook from the current 2.6 per cent. It expects to the extra budget to add 71,000 jobs to the public sector workforce and 15,000 jobs to the private sector.

Unemployment among those aged 15-29 soared to 11.2 per cent in April, even though the economy posted the fastest growth in six quarters in the January-March period. Addressing a widening income gap and sluggish domestic demand is a major challenge for policymakers, especially as exports have only just begun to turn around after falling for almost two years.

Calls for government subsidies will only increase as more than 35,000 workers are expected to be laid off by the end of this year from the shipbuilding industry alone. From December 2015 to February this year, about 41,000 workers lost their jobs at shipbuilders as a broad global downturn in demand and plunging commodity prices sapped the industry.

2 A world of crypto anarchists (Jamie Bartlett in The Guardian) Crypto-anarchists are mostly computer-hacking, anti-state libertarians who have been kicking around the political fringes for two decades, trying to warn a mostly uninterested public about the dangers of a world where everything is connected and online.

They also believe that digital technology, provided citizens are able to use encryption themselves, is the route to a stateless paradise, since it undermines government’s ability to monitor, control and tax its people. Crypto-anarchists build software – think of it as political computer code – that can protect us online.

Julian Assange is a crypto-anarchist, and so perhaps is Edward Snowden. Once the obsessive and nerdy kids in school, they are now the ones who fix your ransomware blunder or start up unicorn tech firms. They are the sort of people who run the technology that runs the world.

Crypto-anarchy is taking over the world, since millions now unwittingly rely on it for online security, and more are scrambling after blockchain and bitcoin ideas, desperate not to be left behind. That governments, businesses and friendly liberal types are falling over themselves to import exciting new tech that has been explicitly designed to undermine them is a bit of an inside joke.

At some point, and probably sooner than we think, the current left and right offerings of the major parties, including the populist, will start to appear ludicrous and unworkable. New political movements and ideas will arrive before long for this industrial revolution, especially once the majority of the population will soon have grown up online.

Perhaps there will be some back-to-the-earth, off-grid thinking reminiscent of the 1970s. More likely is that groups who will embrace the changes and experiment with entirely new forms of governance and society, will emerge. After all, they were right about digital technology, about surveillance and bitcoin and most of us ignored them. And for better or worse, I think they’re probably right about this too.

3 Global beer sales drying up (BBC) People are drinking fewer alcoholic drinks, according to a new industry report tracking consumption worldwide. Beer sales continued to slide last year and the trend towards cider sipping stalled.

The global market for all alcoholic drinks contracted 1.3% in 2016, driven by a 1.8% fall in beer sales, the International Wine and Spirits Record found. Cider sales went in reverse, down 1.5% after several years of growth. The overall contraction of international alcohol sales is far greater than the average dip of 0.3% in the previous five years.

The IWSR market report for 2016 found global wine sales to be relatively flat, down 0.1% and spirits consumption grew 0.3%. UK gin makers could be boosted as the so-called gin revival continued, with sales of the iconic British tipple up 3.7% globally.

Although global GDP increased 3.5% in 2016, according to the IMF, and economic growth usually correlates with increased alcohol consumption several major economies, China, Russia and Brazil all faced an economic slowdown or recession. Beer sales in China fell 4.2%, were down 5.3% in Brazil and dipped 7.8% in Russia.

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