San Jose, Sept 15 (AP/UNB) — Thousands marching in the streets. Flaming barricades. Clashes between demonstrators and riot police in darkened streets. A semi-truck hollowed out by fire.
Costa Rica has been rocked this week by the kind of protests rarely seen in the country in comparison with its more tumultuous Central American neighbors. It comes during a labor strike that went into its fifth day Friday with no apparent end in sight.
Spurred by calls from public sector unions, demonstrators protested again outside the presidential residence and blockaded roads in different parts of the country to demand President Carlos Alvarado scrap a proposed fiscal reform before congress that includes new taxes.
Costa Rica's government is struggling with a deficit estimated at 7.1 percent of GDP this year, which has pushed up the public debt load and increased its need for revenue.
Alvarado is proposing to implement a value added tax to replace the existing sales tax and expand it to goods and services that are currently exempt. One of the most controversial measures is a 1 percent duty on basic foodstuffs.
Those and other changes that would limit unemployment assistance and the payment of some salary bonuses have met with vigorous opposition from public sector unions. Social security officials reported a daily staff absentee rate of 13 percent to 26 percent, causing dozens of surgeries to be postponed.
"Here are the people demanding no more taxes on the working class, no more burdens on workers," said Melida Cedeno, president of the APSE teacher union.
"This strike is indefinite," she added, "and will end only when the government has the will to sit down at the table to talk with all the workers ... and withdraw the proposed law."
Ahead of the strike's start Monday, Alvarado ordered police to reinforce ports and oil installations to keep protesters from disrupting commercial activity and fuel distribution.
In a televised address, he called the strike "illegal," promised to guarantee public order and said the reforms are "the only way to avoid an imminent crisis. ... Today their approval is not only necessary but also urgent."
Protests intensified Wednesday with a mass rally of public employees who filled a main avenue in the capital, San Jose. The march ended outside the Legislative Assembly with some clashes between protesters and police.
There were reports of some injuries this week among protesters detained in clashes at a university, but none were said to be serious. In the Caribbean coastal province of Limon, a supermarket was sacked.
Authorities confirmed Friday that they were investigating the death of a 17-year-old in Limon as possibly related to the disturbances. The same day, roadblocks forced the suspension of the annual bearing of a torch to mark the eve of the country's independence day.
Universities and Roman Catholic authorities have offered to mediate.
The unrest followed a bitterly disputed presidential election in April that has left a polarized electorate in its wake.
Political analyst Gustavo Araya said the strike represents a resurgence of activity for the unions, which enjoyed a close relationship with former President Luis Guillermo Solis during his 2014-2018 administration.
Araya added that labor is more skeptical of Alvarado for being in a coalition government and for having as his Cabinet chief Rodolfo Piza, who is considered a right-wing ideologue by union leaders.
Despite the pressure, the measure has advanced apace in the Legislative Assembly.
"The bill has resisted a week of strike, the motions continue to be processed quickly and there have been no signs of any willingness to negotiate," Araya said. "Under this panorama I would expect one more week" of protests.
Washington, Sept 14 (AP/UNB) — U.S. retail sales barely rose in August as consumers slowed their spending after a robust month of shopping in July.
The Commerce Department said Friday that the value of purchases ticked up just 0.1 percent last month, the smallest increase in six months. But the sluggish figure may prove only a temporary blip. It partly reflected falling prices for items like clothing, and it followed a strong gain of 0.7 percent in July.
Consumer confidence soared to its highest level in 18 years in August as Americans expressed a more optimistic outlook on the economy. That suggests that retail sales could rebound in the coming months.
"The trend in retail spending is still solid, fueled by job growth and rising wages," said Ben Ayers, senior economist at Nationwide. "We expect retail sales to pick up again in coming months to continue a strong 2018 for consumer activity."
Still, auto sales fell 0.8 percent last month, and clothing stores sales plunged 1.7 percent, the steepest drop in 18 months, though that figure mostly reflected lower-priced clothing rather than declining demand.
Retail sales are closely monitored by economists because they provide an early read on consumer spending, which drives about two-thirds of economic activity.
Sales at gas stations jumped 1.7 percent, an increase that reflected higher prices at the pump. Excluding gas stations, retail sales slipped 0.1 percent, the first decline since January.
Sales increased at electronics and appliance stores, sporting goods stores, restaurants and bars, and a category that includes online and catalog retailers. Online and catalog sales have jumped 10.4 percent compared with a year earlier, a much larger increase than the 6.6 percent rise in overall sales.
There are other signs that consumers are optimistic and prepared to spend. Americans borrowed more in July, increasing credit card debt and student and auto loans — a sign of confidence in their ability to repay the debt.
Retailers expect a solid winter holiday shopping season and are announcing plans to ramp up their hiring of seasonal staff. Target said this week that it plans to hire 120,000 temporary workers, 20 percent more than last year.
The economy expanded at a robust 4.2 percent annual rate in the April-June quarter, the strongest growth in four years. That growth was lifted by solid consumer spending, which increased 3.8 percent.
Analysts forecast growth will slip in the current July-September quarter to a still-healthy 3 percent annual pace.
Tokyo, Sept 14 (AP/UNB) — Global shares were mostly higher Friday, continuing their rally after gains on Wall Street and hopes that regional trade tensions may ease.
KEEPING SCORE: France's CAC 40 edged up 0.4 percent in early trading to 5,349.27, while Germany' DAX rose 0.3 percent to 12,094.64. Britain's FTSE 100 gained 0.3 percent to 7,300.17. U.S. shares were also set to move higher with Dow futures up nearly 0.2 percent at 26,231. S&P 500 futures were up 0.2 percent at 2,914.60.
ASIA'S DAY: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 gained 1.2 percent to finish at 23,094.67. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was up 0.6 percent at 6,165.30. South Korea's Kospi added 1.4 percent to 2,318.25. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 1.0 percent to 27,286.41, while the Shanghai Composite index lost 0.2 percent to 2,681.64.
THE QUOTE: "Gains on Wall Street coupled with the softer U.S. dollar following U.S. inflation disappointments posed a more benign situation for Asia markets into the end of the week as we watch Chinese numbers," said Jingyi Pan, market strategist at IG in Singapore.
CHINA FACTOR: Investors are worried about the impact on the regional economy of trade tensions under U.S. President Donald Trump's tariff policies, amid reports of a new round of talks that would give the Chinese government another chance to address U.S. concerns before the Trump administration imposes more tariffs.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude added 37 cents to $68.96 a barrel. It slid 2.5 percent to $68.59 a barrel in New York on Thursday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 19 cents to $78.37 a barrel in London.
CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 111.84 yen from 111.45 yen. The euro rose to $1.1714 from $1.1642.
Tokyo, Sep 14 (AP/UNB) — Asian shares were mostly higher Friday, continuing their rally after gains on Wall Street and hopes that regional trade tensions may ease.
KEEPING SCORE: Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 gained nearly 1.0 percent to 23,042.83 in the morning session. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was up 0.6 percent at 6,165.30. South Korea's Kospi added 1.3 percent to 2,316.09. Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.7 percent to 27,206.18, while the Shanghai Composite index lost 0.3 percent to 2,679.99.
WALL STREET: The S&P 500 index gained 15.26 points, or 0.5 percent, to 2,904.18. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 147.07 points, or 0.6 percent, to 26,145.99. The Nasdaq composite jumped 59.48 points, or 0.7 percent, to 8,013.71. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks dipped 1.38 points, or 0.1 percent, to 1,714.32.
THE QUOTE: "Gains on Wall Street coupled with the softer U.S. dollar following U.S. inflation disappointments posed a more benign situation for Asia markets into the end of the week as we watch Chinese numbers," says Jingyi Pan, market strategist at IG in Singapore.
CHINA FACTOR: Investors are worried about the impact on the regional economy of trade tensions under President Donald Trump's tariff policies, amid reports of a new round of talks that would give the Chinese government another chance to address U.S. concerns before the Trump administration imposes bigger tariffs.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude added 18 cents to $68.77 a barrel. It slid 2.5 percent to $68.59 a barrel in New York Thursday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 7 cents to $78.25 a barrel in London.
CURRENCIES: The dollar rose to 111.90 yen from 111.45 yen. The euro rose to $1.1692 from $1.1642.
Dhaka, Sept 13 (UNB) - Principal Coordinator (SDG Affairs) of the Prime Minister's Office Abul Kalam Azad on Thursday said Bangladesh’s per capita income will reach US $16,000 by 2041 when the country will be a developed one.
He came up with the remarks while addressing a roundtable discussion on "Potential Roles and Challenges of Private Sector to Achieve Sustainable Development Goals" organised by Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI).
Azad said the government has created a land bank of 1 lakh acres for establishing economic zones across the country, especially in the south belt where 35,000 acres of land have been acquired and handed over to Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (Beza).
He said the government has done a mapping with the goals and targets of SDGs and assigned all the ministries with their respective tasks for their implementation, according to a press release.
“We need resources mobilisation for financing issues and to enhance skill development,” Azad said.
He urged the private sector to invest in the economic zones, saying the government will facilitate their investment providing electricity and gas supply.
DCCI President Abul Kasem Khan in his welcome address said the private sector is facing some challenges. “We need policy continuation, consistency and cohesiveness for more engagement of private sector in attaining SDGs.”
President of Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) Barrister Nihad Kabir and President of Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) Mahbubul Alam were also present at the programme.