“As we dealt with various challenges over the past year, we rediscovered within ourselves greater depths of resolve and more creative problem-solving capabilities. Now we are starting to see the results of our agility, creativity, and optimism come to light as job markets trend upwards and our Network offices see promising results across major categories.” – Bert Miller, President & CEO, MRINetwork
European business activity improved slightly in February but showed a continued contraction as Covid-19 social restrictions drag on, according to a report by CNBC. Although the euro zone is still struggling with the coronavirus pandemic, with most countries restricting people’s movements to contain the number of infections, IHS Markit’s flash composite PMI for the euro zone, which looks at activity across both manufacturing and services, rose slightly to 48.1 in February versus 47.8 in January.
The services sector, the most hit by lockdowns and curfews, saw activity dropping to a three-month low, whereas manufacturing hit a 36-month high.
The European Central Bank estimated that the euro area’s GDP in 2021 will climb by 3.9%. However, the forecast is highly dependent on the evolution of the pandemic and there are fears that variants of the virus could derail economic growth.
In France, business activity saw the fastest decline in three months during February, while in Germany, the flash composite PMI hit 51.3 in February, a two-month high, indicating ongoing resilience in the German economy despite the country remaining under strict lockdown measures.
There is a high likelihood that the Asia-Pacific will morph into being what will effectively be a contact-free economy, according to commentary by Nick Lambert in Channel News Asia (CNA). Enterprises will need to focus more than ever on building new customer relationships through effective digital experiences, since physical interaction with them will be far less. Online shopping was already proving increasingly popular with consumers in APAC before COVID-19, but lockdowns and stringent restrictions have sent it skyrocketing. China has already seen consumers shopping online in much bigger numbers.
E-commerce in APAC was forecast to reach US$3.5 trillion in 2021, according to the eMarketer 2019 Global E-commerce Forecast. While the emergence of the contact-free economy is likely to see this number revised upwards, APAC ecommerce platforms like Lazada, Shopee, ShopBack and Zalora are helping brands and consumers during the pandemic. According to research by Ipsos, Vietnam has seen 57 per cent of shoppers shifting their purchasing online, with India at 57 per cent and China at 50 per cent not far behind.
Other digital technologies will play vital roles in the new normal of APAC, driving trends such as long-term adoption of autonomous vehicles and robotics. In terms of autonomous vehicles and drones, spending in APAC has typically been smaller than other world regions. But that is expected to change as distancing drives decisions and the contact-free economy becomes more commonplace.
The Cuban government is expanding the number of sectors where it will allow private business, hoping to spur a depressed economy, according to a report in the New York Times. But key areas remain off-limits. The list of the economic activities that the government proposes to keep under its control contains 124 activities that would remain forbidden to private enterprise. It would keep the country’s most powerful and productive sectors under the dominion of the state, including those employing many of the most highly educated and trained professionals, such as medicine and healthcare, education, media and construction-related trades like architecture and engineering.
In an effort to create jobs, open new markets and revive the economy, the government also announced that it would greatly expand the number of economic activities open to private enterprise to 127 allowed types of businesses. The news could promise a vast opening of the economy, elevating hope and expectations across Cuba. The new list seems to open major new space for manufacturing. Cubans will now be able to apply for licenses to open cheese, paint and toy factories, for example.