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Sask. daycare providers calling on government for financial support during COVID-19 pandemic

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SASKATOON —
Daycare providers in Saskatchewan say they’re facing numerous challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and are calling on the provincial government to provide financial assistance.

Lindsay Jaworski has been running her licensed daycare for almost four years.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic is causing her to consider closing temporarily.

“Should I stay open? Should I close? It’s tough because we don’t really know what direction to go right now,” Jaworski said.

She said none of her parents are essential workers and most of them are pulling their kids out of daycare because they don’t need it right now or can no longer afford it.

Jaworski is worried that closing could affect the kids she looks after.

“The kids do really need this daycare feel, it’s normalcy. They aren’t getting that and I’m seeing that they’re anxious and they are nervous, but coming in and getting them to play and laugh, it’s really helping. And just the thought of closing and not being able to see these kids again for who knows how long, that’s scary.”

It’s this reason and wanting to help essential workers that some daycare operators are choosing to stay open.

Jaworski, who is part of a daycare networking group that consists of approximately 230 women across Saskatchewan, said the issue is that daycare operators don’t have access to financial aid if they are still open, so many of their incomes have dropped.

This is an issue for Jodie Pren, a private dayhome provider in Saskatoon.

“My biggest concern is that I’ve lost 50 per cent of my income, and can’t fill the spots because my own children are home from school. I’m left without the opportunity to recover those wages but also don’t qualify for any assistance. There are so many gaps in the system that seem to let us relentlessly fall through the cracks. At every turn, the wording depicting who is ‘qualified’ for help is so vague that I’m left feeling like maybe I do qualify, but what if I don’t?” Pren said in a release.

Emily Mills who operates a daycare in rural Saskatchewan shares this view and said there are ongoing expenses even when kids aren’t there.

“Most of us sacrifice a huge part of our homes to use for daycare (like our basements). Even if children are not there playing in our playroom, we are still paying for our furnace to heat the area. Many of us also have daycare vehicles that we are still paying off (even if they are parked and not being used),” Mills said in a release.

These daycare operators are also asking for assurance from the government that if they choose to close their doors for their own safety reasons, they’ll have access to financial aid.

“What I think all us daycare providers need is that extra assistance for running and topping off if we don’t have enough numbers and we can’t do this financially. And the option to get financially assisted if we do need to close,” Jaworski said.

Chris Hodges, media relations consultant with the Ministry of Education, said the government recognizes the vital role child care operators continue to play during the pandemic and respects the decisions these organizations have made with regards to staying open or closing.

“The Government of Saskatchewan will continue to provide regular government grants to licensed child care facilities including home based – whether open or closed – through April, and are assessing the situation as it relates to the continuation of that funding. This would include the regular monthly nutrition grant that is provided to licensed home child care providers.”

Hodges said licensed child care facilities have not been mandated to stay open.

“The school-based centres that are providing service to workers responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, are making these spaces available voluntarily.”

The province said it’s working to minimize the financial impact to those centres who are providing this service.

“I do think daycare providers job isn’t done in this pandemic yet and I don’t think we should get checked off…we just need attention and we need care too,” Jaworski.

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Pandemic and protests — Thailand′s double whammy | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW

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A chain of hotels, a newly-opened restaurant in Phuket and a popular eatery on the outskirts of capital Bangkok: Pornprom Sangkasuk was a man of wealth. Then COVID-19 happened.

His hospitality business came crumbling down; the hotel chain collapsed, while the two restaurants were left battling for survival as sweeping lockdowns turned once buzzing tourism hot spots like Phuket into ghost towns.

The 58-year-old, who did a daily business of between €1000-€2000 in better times, blames Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s “economic ineptness” for his predicament and that of many business owners like him.

“The pandemic only proved to be the final nail in the coffin. The economy, the hotels, the tourism sector were already in a downward spiral,” he said.

Pornprom has since dusted off his Red Shirt activist’s hat and has been helping anti-government protests that have been gathering across Thailand. He has already used up all his savings to organize food and logistics for the protesters, many of them students, who are demanding Prayuth’s resignation, a change to the constitution and curbs on the powers of the monarchy — an unprecedented affront to the crown in a country which has one of the world’s harshest lese majeste laws.

“I have nothing to lose. I have already lost everything,” Pornprom tells DW from a protest site in capital Bangkok, his voice occasionally drowned out by blaring police sirens.     

But experts say the protests could hurt Thailand’s already crippled economy by keeping away tourists and holding back people from spending and companies from making investments.

Pornprom Sangkasuk

Pornprom Sangkasuk blames Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha for his economic troubles

Trouble in paradise

The Thai economy saw its worst contraction in over two decades in the second quarter, shrinking by as much as 12.2% as the coronavirus outbreak battered the country’s key drivers of trade and tourism. The International Monetary Fund expects the economy to contract by 7.1% this year, lagging most of its peers in Southeast Asia, despite having handled the COVID-19 relatively well.

But the economy was in deep trouble even before the pandemic, hurt by weak domestic demand, the US-China trade war and Thailand’s strong currency.

The near 10% appreciation in Thai baht took the shine off the country’s “value-for-money destination” tag and prompted some international tourists to ditch the country’s fabled beaches, winter sun and nightlife for neighboring Vietnam’s exotic hill-tribe villages and other cultural retreats.

An economic slowdown in China — Thailand’s biggest source of international tourists — also weighed on tourist arrivals, further hitting a sector that contributes more than 10% to Thailand’s economic output.

But that drop pales in comparison to the blow dealt by the coronavirus outbreak that caused international tourist arrivals to drop to zero between April and September. By comparison, more than 18.5 million tourists visited Thailand during the same period last year.

While Thailand does not expect its tourism sector to recover any time soon, it has started welcoming small groups of tourists on special 90-day visas. The travelers are expected to quarantine for 14 days and test negative three times before they can roam around freely. Thailand has done an impressive job of keeping the virus in check with just one confirmed locally transmitted case in 100 days.

“The one good thing in a way about these protests happening now is that tourism has been completely wiped out, so it can’t fall any further. But consumer sentiment and business sentiment are still going to be affected, especially if the protests drag out longer,” Gareth Leather, senior Asia economist at Capital Economics, told DW. “You could see the protests knocking potentially another 0.5 percentage point off GDP if they become much more severe.”   

An infographic comparing GDP growth rates in ASEAN countries

Thailand’s history of coups and protests

The Southeast Asian nation is no stranger to civil unrest, having seen nearly 20 coups since its transition to constitutional monarchy in 1932. In the past two decades alone, there have been two successful coups and several nationwide protests.

The bouts of political uncertainty have dragged down investments and the Thai economy’s productive potential, forcing the country to grow at a slower pace compared to its regional peers. Thailand’s productivity growth fell to 1.3% over 2010-2016 from 3.6% in 1999-2007, while private investment halved to 15% of GDP in 2018 from 30% in 1997.

Analysts at Capital Economics point out that private investment has yet to recover to levels seen before the 2013-14 political crisis that ended with Prayuth, then the army chief, seize control. The crisis knocked nearly a percentage point off Thailand’s GDP growth.  

“If you’re an investor looking to establish a factory in South East Asia, you look at Vietnam, it’s politically stable, has low wages, and is near China, and then you look at Thailand, which has slightly higher wages, maybe doesn’t have the same infrastructure links to China and sees periodic bouts of quite severe political unrest. You know, it’s a no brainer. Why would you choose Thailand,” Leather said.

Thailand needs structural reforms

Experts say Thailand must boost productivity, especially of manufacturing firms, and revive private investment, or it risks falling into a “middle-income trap” — where countries are no longer poor, but they do not see enough income and productivity growth to break into the group of rich countries.

Prayuth hasn’t shown much willingness to push for radical reforms, including lifting restrictive laws that discourage foreign firms and skilled professionals from entering the domestic market, despite enjoying almost unbridled powers. The Thai leader was found wanting in his response to arrest the decline in GDP coming into the pandemic.

Pornprom does not have much hope from the former military junta leader and that’s why he wants to see the back of his. Prayuth has so far refused to step down, snubbing a three-day ultimatum by the protesters. A special session of the parliament is meeting to try to ease tensions.  

Pornprom and his fellow protesters plan to carry on their protest until all their demands are met, which means they may have to keep hitting the streets for weeks, if not months, given the unprecedented reforms he is seeking.  

“I am not going to relent, not going anywhere,” Pornprom said. “I am doing this for the students, our future generation. It’s them who would have to contend with job losses and slow growth. They deserve better.”



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Complaints about whistleblowing procedures to FCA see 61% jump

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The Financial Conduct Authority has seen a 61% jump in the number of complaints about the whistleblowing procedures at financial services companies in the 2019/20 financial year.

In a Freedom of Information request made by law firm Fox & Partners, the FCA received 71 complaints, up from 44 in the 2018/19 financial year.

Whistleblowing procedures at banks have faced increased scrutiny over the last few years after the chief executive of UK lender Barclays attempted to uncover the identity of the author of an anonymous letter about an employee received in 2016.

In 2018, CEO Jes Staley was fined £642,430 by the City watchdog. The following year, the number of new whistleblower cases at the bank dropped by almost a third.

READBarclays’ whistleblowing cases dropped by 30% in year after Staley penalty

For Fox & Partners, which specialises in employment law, the concerns have grown amongst staff over whether issues they raise will be handled effectively by senior executives.

The increase in reporting of these concerns, however, could be due to greater awareness about whistleblowing protection and procedures, according to Arpita Dutt and Paula Chan, partners at employment law firm BDBF.

“This trend in the increase in complaints to the FCA may continue as firms may have been less responsive to whistleblowers during the lockdown or be directing fewer resources to dealing with whistleblowing complaints,” said Dutt and Chan in an email.

“Whistleblowers may feel ignored and therefore more emboldened to take their complaints to the FCA.”

Andrew Samuels, the chief executive of WislPort, which specialises in the implementation of whistleblowing programmes at companies, explained that employees may be taking their complaints directly to the FCA because working from home has made it harder to find out how to access their companies’ internal whistleblowing channels.

“It may be that given the current challenges organisations face, there has been less focus on ensuring procedures are adhered to or enforced,” added Samuels.

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email Bérengère Sim

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Apple supplier Luxshare unnerves Foxconn as U.S.-China feud speeds supply chain shift – Yahoo Canada Finance

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