Category: business

Covid stimulus: Biden signs $1.9tn relief bill into law

US President Joe Biden has signed a $1.9tn (£1.4tn) economic relief bill that aims to help Americans impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic into law.

The bill includes $1,400 payments, an extension of jobless benefits, and a child tax credit that is expect to lift millions out of poverty.

Mr Biden said the relief package will rebuild “the backbone of this country”.

The spending bill, one of the largest in US history, passed Congress without a single Republican supporter.

Mr Biden is due to give a primetime address later on Thursday to tout the bill’s provisions. He and other Democrats will also hold a signing ceremony at the White House on Friday.

This sixth Covid-19 relief bill is a major legislative win for Mr Biden.

The package has been broadly popular among Americans.

A March Pew Research Center poll found that 70% of US adults surveyed expressed support for the bill, including 41% of Republicans.

Unemployment skyrocketed over the last year, with a current rate of 6.2%, according to the US Labor Department.

Mr Biden had originally planned the bill signing for Friday, but it was pushed up in his schedule “because Congress enroled the bill more quickly than we anticipated,” White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a tweet.

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Ant Group boss Simon Hu steps down in restructuring

he chief executive of China’s Ant Group has stepped down “for personal reasons” as the online payment giant undergoes a restructuring.

Simon Hu will be replaced by executive chairman Eric Jing, the company said.

Ant is controlled by billionaire Jack Ma who first made his name through the trading platform Alibaba.

The firm has come under intense regulatory pressure and was forced to drop its planned $37bn public share sale last year.

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Ant Group is China’s biggest payments provider, with more than 730 million monthly users on its digital payments service Alipay.

But it also acts as a marketplace for loans. It takes a fee to match borrowers with banks, who then take on the risk.

It also offers savings accounts and insurance, all through its mobile phone app.

However Jack Ma has attracted controversy in China, criticising the state-dominated banking sector, and the company is in the cross-hairs of regulators, eager to bring it into line with more traditional banks and lenders, and to contain its market dominance.

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Roblox: ‘We paid off our parents’ mortgage making video games’

When identical twins Ben and Matt Horton began making serious money from creating video games, their parents couldn’t believe it.

“It was quite bizarre at first, because I was doing a paper round and they were blown away,” says Ben. “They said there was no way a paper round can make this much.”

His brother Matt adds: “It was a significant amount of money. They thought we were doing shady stuff online.”

As it turned out, the brothers had produced their first big hit – a game called Boat Ride, launched on the online gaming platform Roblox – and they were just 13.

Seven years later, Ben and Matt work full-time on gaming, with Ben specialising on the software side and Matt doing video production.

Their games have been played more than 100 million times and each of them earns £100,000 a year.

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Mathias Cormann set to head OECD despite climate record

Mathias Cormann, Australia’s longtime former finance minister, is set to take over as chief of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Mr Cormann, a centre-right politician, had faced opposition stemming from his record on climate change.

He tried to abolish Australia’s renewable energy targets and has called carbon pricing a “very expensive hoax”.

Sweden’s Cecilia Malmström was also vying to lead the group, which includes 37 of the world’s biggest economies.

The Paris-based OECD, which helps develop and coordinate policies among its members, is expected to finalise Mr Cormann’s selection next week. He would serve a five-year term starting in June.

Greenpeace International, which helped spearhead outside opposition to Mr Cormann’s candidacy, called his selection a “missed opportunity” for the group, which includes the US, UK, Germany and Japan among others.

“We have little confidence in Mr Cormann’s ability to ensure the OECD is a leader in tackling the climate crisis when he himself has an atrocious record on the issue, including opposition to carbon pricing,” executive director Jennifer Morgan said.

“This was a missed opportunity for the OECD member states to draw a line in the sand and disqualify anyone with a history of blocking climate action from senior international appointments.”

Mr Cormann has responded to the criticism, saying he was “absolutely committed to ambitious and effective action on climate change”, but that there were different ways to achieve it.

Who is Mathias Cormann?
As the next leader of the Paris-based OECD, Mr Cormann is facing an agenda that includes tackling the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, addressing climate change and reaching a global deal on how to tax technology companies.

A native German speaker who was born in Belgium, Mr Cormann moved to Australia in his mid-20s, working in health insurance and politics.

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He holds the record as the country’s longest-serving finance minister, serving from 2013 to 2020. He also represented western Australia as a Liberal Party senator from 2007 to 2020.

Known to favour lower taxes, he pledged during his campaign for the OECD job to deploy “every policy and analytical capability available through the OECD to help economies around the world achieve global net-zero emissions by 2050”.

The group should help identify “market-based … solutions which maximise reduction outcomes in a way that preserves energy affordability and is economically responsible” he added.

Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison claimed the selection as a win for his country, calling it “the most senior appointment of an Australian candidate to an international body for decades,” in a statement to the Sydney Morning Herald.

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