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Government’s foreign loans reach $8 billion at end-June

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THE GOVERNMENT received $8.203 billion in foreign currency (FX) loans in the first half of the year meant for its coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) response, disaster risk management and Marawi’s reconstruction, among others, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin E. Diokno said on Friday.

The $8.203 billion was made up of $3.672 billion in commercial borrowings and $4.531 billion in program and project loans disbursed by multilateral lenders, Mr. Diokno said in a Viber message to reporters on Friday.

“We’re providing you this update in the spirit of transparency,” Mr. Diokno, a former Budget secretary, said.

Broken down, the government’s commercial borrowings were made up of $2.348 billion in global bonds and $1.324 billion in euro global bonds.

Meanwhile, for the program loans worth $4.277 billion, $1.512 billion went to the government’s COVID-19 active response and $498.8 million was allocated for emergency coronavirus response and development policy.

The rest of the program loans went to other initiatives such as disaster risk management ($498.8 million); youth-to-school transition ($400 million); promotion of competitiveness ($399 million); local governance reform ($300 million); social welfare development ($299.3 million); emergency assistance for Marawi’s reconstruction ($206.8 million); social protection ($100 million); and social protection support ($60 million).

Mr. Diokno also broke down the $254 million in government project loans which came from the Japan International Cooperation Agency ($98.069 million), International Bank for Reconstruction and Development ($30.84 million), International Fund For Agricultural Development ($11.146 million), the Asian Development Bank ($1.576 million) and other agencies ($113.073 million).

“For the same period, the national government’s FX disbursements amounted to $6.275 billion,” the central bank chief said.

Broken down, $3.305 billion went to debt servicing or principal and interest payments on the government’s commercial borrowings, and program and project loans. Meanwhile, $2.916 billion went to foreign exchange conversion.

Other net disbursements amounted to $54 million, which includes charges and disbursements of grants to other government agencies and net of interest income on the national government’s deposits.

“In sum, net national government receipts amounted to $1.928 billion for the same period ended 30 June 2020,” Mr. Diokno said.

BANKS’ FCDU LOANS

Meanwhile, foreign currency loans of local banks rose in the first quarter amid lower interest rates and an increase in working capital requirements, BSP data released separately on Friday showed.

Outstanding loans by foreign currency deposits units (FCDUs) of banks inched up 1.3% to $18.3 billion as of March from the $18 billion seen at end-2019.

Credit disbursed by FCDUs rose 8.7% year-on-year from the $16.1 billion seen at end-March 2019.

“The growth in loans may be attributed to borrowing firms’ higher working capital requirements, lower interest rates as well as increased investment in plant or equipment,” the central bank said.

FCDUs are central bank-approved bank units that perform transactions involving foreign currencies, mainly by accepting deposits and handing out loans.

The BSP said 79.5% of FCDU loans in the period were medium- to long-term debt, meaning they are payable over a term of more than a year. This is higher than the 75.8% level logged as of March 2019.

Central bank data showed loans to residents, which made up 64.8% of the outstanding loans, went to power generation companies (18%); merchandise and service exporters (13.9%); public utility firms (7.8%); towing, tanker, trucking, forwarding, personal and other industries (6.9%); and producers/manufacturers, including oil companies (5.2%).

Gross disbursements hit $14.3 billion in the first quarter, higher by 7.8% from a year ago, on the back of higher funding requirements of an affiliate of a branch of a foreign bank, the BSP said.

Loan repayments also rose 7.2% which resulted in overall net disbursements.

Meanwhile, FCDU deposit liabilities stood at $43.1 billion as of March, up 4.9% from the end-December 2019 level of $41.1 billion and by 7.8% from the end-March 2019 level of $40 billion.

The BSP said 98% of these deposits continue to be owned by residents, “essentially constituting an additional buffer to the country’s gross international reserves.”

The FCDU loans-to-deposit ratio was at 42.4% as of end-March, lower than the 43.9% as of end-December but slightly higher than the year-ago ratio of 42%. — LWTN



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Good news for Kamala Harris: Voters are fine with ambitious women. So why do party gatekeepers still care?

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With the expected date of Joe Biden’s vice presidential decision growing ever nearer, the rumblings that campaign insiders are waging something of a shadow war against Sen. Kamala Harris have grown louder.

In late July, news reports emerged that certain supporters of the presumptive Democratic nominee felt that Harris was “too ambitious” for the job. “She would be running for president the day of the inauguration,” Florida bundler John Morgan told CNBC. The buzz was loud enough that Harris herself seemed to address it on Friday, while speaking via livestream at the the Black Girls Lead 2020 conference: “There will be a resistance to your ambition, there will be people who say to you, ‘you are out of your lane.’”

But it seems that voters might think that lane is actually a perfectly good place for Harris and other female politicians to be.

According to research published just last month, most people actually don’t mind ambition in female candidates for office. “Voters don’t have a problem with ambitious women,” says Ana Catalano Weeks, a University of Bath comparative politics professor and co-author of the July paper “Ambitious Women: Gender and Voter Perceptions of Candidate Ambition.” “This seems to be a problem on the party side.”

Catalano Weeks and co-author Sparsha Saha, a preceptor at Harvard, asked survey respondents to choose fictional candidates whose genders were specified, each with descriptions that suggested different levels of ambition.

The researchers defined ambition as perceived in political candidates a few ways: progressive ambition, or seeking office and subsequent higher office; personality traits like assertiveness and determination to succeed; and ambitious political agendas.

Catalano Weeks and Saha hypothesized that voters would penalize ambitious women running for office. But they found that wasn’t the case; voters did not treat ambitious women differently than they did ambitious men.

“Norms in society change,” says Catalano Weeks by way of explanation. The general public may have once seen ambition as a negative quality in women—but doesn’t anymore. Concerns over ambition in women from political gatekeepers may then be expressions of their own sexism, or outdated concerns over how voters will react, Saha says. “To what extent are gatekeepers sexist themselves?” Saha asks. “Are they taking action thinking voters will punish ambitious women? Are they really just thinking about electability?”

These academics were inspired to take on this research in 2017 after observing Hillary Clinton’s treatment in the 2016 election, including a hacked email in which Colin Powell described the Democratic nominee as having a “long track record” of “unbridled ambition.”

This cycle, Harris wasn’t the only woman in reported contention for Biden’s ticket to be described as ambitious. Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams shocked the political establishment by openly stating that she would accept a VP offer from the Democratic nominee; she told other women of color not to let others “disqualify” their ambition.

The research conducted by Saha and Catalano Weeks did not address how race affects voters’ perception of ambition in candidates, but the pair hope future work will answer that question.

“I wish the story was, ‘Yay, Kamala Harris is ambitious. Isn’t that a great thing?’” Catalano Weeks says.

Adds her co-author Saha: “It’s just so absurd. Of course these people are ambitious.”

More on the most powerful women in business from Fortune:



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Facebook purges ads for illegal wildlife in SE Asia as online trade surges

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YANGON — An ad showing a civet cat cowering in a cage being offered for sale on Facebook was just one of hundreds that the social media giant has removed in a crackdown on Southeast Asia’s illegal wildlife trade during recent weeks.

“Not too wild, not too-well behaved. If interested, call…” the seller wrote on the post, using an account in Myanmar, a major source and transit point for the trade in wild animals.

Facebook has a ban on the sale of animals on its platform.

But, in the five months through May 2020, a report seen by Reuters showed World Wildlife Fund researchers had counted 2,143 wild animals from 94 species for sale on Facebook from Myanmar alone.

The vast majority of posts—92%—offered live animals, including birds of prey, while gibbons, langurs, wild cats, and hornbills were in high demand.

Wildlife charities said more than 500 posts, accounts, and groups were taken down in April and July after they alerted Facebook, which said its staffers remove content that breaches rules as soon as they become aware.

“We are committed to working with law enforcement authorities around the world to help tackle the illegal trade of wildlife,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

‘INCREASING IN EVERY COUNTRY’

Campaigners say the advent of zoonotic diseases like the novel coronavirus, which is suspected of having jumped from animals to humans, has not quashed demand from buyers.

Southeast Asia is a major hub in the multi-billion dollar global wildlife trade and, according to monitors, sellers are increasingly using social media due to its massive reach and private chat functions.

“It’s increasing in every country,” said Jedsada Taweekan, a regional program manager for WWF, adding that the volume of wildlife products sold online had approximately doubled since 2015.

Myanmar came under fire in recent weeks over reported plans to allow captive breeding of about 175 threatened species including tigers and pangolins. Naing Zaw Htun, a senior forestry department official, told Reuters social media had become “one of the major drivers of the wildlife trafficking,” and the aim of the captive breeding plan was to reduce poaching.

Fighting the illegal online wildlife trade poses a serious challenge for governments across the region, where many national laws lag behind, said Elizabeth John, senior communications officer for TRAFFIC, a non-government organisation.

She said Facebook had been “very proactive in trying to address the online trade” but faced a “considerable logistical challenge” monitoring posts.

A study by TRAFFIC published in early July found more than 2,489 ivory items for sale across Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam on Facebook and Instagram, which is owned by Facebook.

TRAFFIC said 557 out of 600 posts, groups and profiles subsequently flagged to Facebook were removed. WWF said four Facebook accounts and seven groups, each with thousands of members, were removed in response to their research in Myanmar.

The company says it uses a combination of technology and reports from NGOs and others to detect and remove content.

Relying on tip-offs isn’t good enough, said Michael Lwin, founder of Myanmar-based tech start-up Koe Koe Tech. “Social media platforms, in general, need a more systematic response,” Mr. Lwin said.



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How a hair-care company went from salon supplier to sanitizer powerhouse

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When AG Hair moved into its new, 70,000-sq.-foot, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Coquitlam, B.C., two years ago, it was part of a plan to supercharge expansion of its hair care product line to salons in international markets. Europe was next on its list. Then COVID-19 hit.

Not only was the European expansion put on hold, but salons in major markets across Canada and the United States were temporarily closed. Very few were purchasing hair products, so manufacturing was halted in mid-March, leaving most of the company’s 82 employees out of work.

AG Hair could have waited out the pandemic but instead decided to lean into its entrepreneurial culture and make a sharp pivot. It began providing hand-sanitizing products for front-line health-care workers, addressing a global shortage.

“We realized there was this massive need for health-care professionals, and we wanted to make a difference and be able to provide them with the products they needed,” says AG Hair CEO Graham Fraser.

AG Hair received Canadian and U.S. approvals a week after applying for the licences needed to make sanitizer, and produced samples to show local authorities within 48 hours.

AG Hair’s Coquitlam facility has pivoted to making hand sanitizer (Photograph by Alana Paterson)

“That rapid response time, and the fact that we had gone through all of the Health Canada regulatory hurdles, showed [the local health authorities] that we were a partner they could trust and someone they could look to, to deliver the products they needed,” Fraser says.

Within a month, the company started pumping out the products, first for the health-care industry, then for consumers on its own website and on Amazon. About 10 per cent of AG Hair’s hand-sanitizer production also went to people in need, as identified by organizations such as United Way.

Parallel 49 Brewing Company is also using AG Hair’s Coquitlam manufacturing facility to produce its own blend of liquid hand sanitizer for front-line health and emergency workers, in partnership with the B.C. government.

Fraser credits his team for its energy and creativity in making the hand-sanitizer production happen, and helping put AG Hair staff back to work.

“We realized we had an opportunity . . . and then it became this incredible, almost war-room mentality and collaboration with our owners, our executive team and our people to say, ‘How are we going to get through this?’ ” Fraser recalls. “I think our success speaks to the type of people we have and the entrepreneurial spirit of pursuing every avenue we have, understanding how we can produce the products and making it happen.”

AG Hair’s commitment to investing in future growth is a big part of what makes it a Best Managed company, says Nicole Coleman, a partner at Deloitte and co-lead of its Best Managed Program in B.C.

“Capability and innovation come through quite strongly with this company,” says Coleman, who is also AG Hair’s coach at Deloitte. “I don’t think they would be able to pivot as quickly if they weren’t so strategic and had the internal capabilities to do it.”

The manufacturing facility was a big investment, but one Coleman says has already paid dividends.

“They were looking forward with a strategic plan in mind about future growth and how they could expand, rather than just focusing on the day to day,” she says. “Best Managed companies are always pushing the envelope and are conscious about planning for the future.”

AG Hair was founded in Vancouver in 1989 by hairstylist John Davis and graphic artist Lotte Davis. The husband-and-wife team began bottling hair products in their basement and selling them direct to salons from the back of a station wagon.

The company eventually moved its manufacturing off-site, to a third party. One day, John went to watch the operations and was surprised to see salt being poured into the mixture. Although he was told salt is commonly used as a thickener, he didn’t like the potential side effects of dry hair and skin.

It was at that moment John decided the company would oversee its own manufacturing. “Through that experience, John also became an expert in product development,” says Fraser, who came to the company in 2000 as director of sales.

After having worked for more than two decades at PepsiCo and Kraft Foods, Fraser was eager to work at a smaller, more agile company where he felt he could help make a difference.

“It was perfect because I got to bring a lot of structure and process that I learned in those organizations, but I also learned an awful lot about being an entrepreneur from John and Lotte: that sense of urgency, the decision-making process, the need to get things done and drive things forward and pursue opportunities,” he says.

Fraser has helped drive AG Hair’s expansion into the U.S. and internationally, including Australia, Taiwan, and Central and South America. A portion of its sales go to One Girl Can, a charity founded by Lotte that provides schooling, education and mentoring for girls in sub-Saharan Africa.

Fraser also oversees the development of new, trending products, including a new deep-conditioning hair mask made with 98 per cent plant-based and natural ingredients. Hand-sanitizing spray and gel will be the latest addition to the company’s product lineup.

“We don’t see the demand [for hand-sanitizing products] going away,” he says. “As the isolation policies start to get lifted, people are going to need forms of security and protocols as they get back into regular life and work. We see there’s going to be a need for these types of products long-term.”


This article appears in print in the June 2020 issue of Maclean’s magazine with the headline, “Working out the kinks.” Subscribe to the monthly print magazine here.

The post How a hair-care company went from salon supplier to sanitizer powerhouse appeared first on Canadian Business – Your Source For Business News.



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