Monthly Archives: February 2017

28Feb 2017

China Considering Financial Rewards to Encourage Second Children – Bloomberg


China is weighing subsidies for couples who have a second child to help increase the birthrate after authorities scrapped a decades-old one-child policy in 2015, official media reported.

The government is considering measures such as “birth rewards and subsidies” to help encourage more people to have another child, Wang Peian, vice-minister of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, said at a conference on Saturday, according to a report Tuesday by the state-run China Daily.

Such incentives, if adopted, would represent a fundamental shift in the Communist Party’s approach to family planning, from limiting births to encouraging them. After decades of penalizing many couples who had more than one child, now the world’s second-largest economy, which has gained for decades from having an abundant young workforce, is facing a hangover of its one-child policy implemented in late 1970s.

Allowing all couples to have two children still falls short of reversing a trend that threatens to impose a drag on economic growth. And a limited baby boom could still be dampened by the rising costs of child-rearing. Wang said that affordability has become a constraint on Chinese families’ decisions to have a second child, according to China Daily.

Read More: China Ending One-Child Rule Too Little, Too Late for Growth

Wang’s comments are in line with the advice from one of the nation’s top demographers. Policy makers should use public services — including kindergartens, schools and child care — to lower costs and encourage cash-squeezed parents to have more children, Cai Fang, vice president of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing and a member of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, recently told Bloomberg News in an interview.

Wang said that such a “baby bonus” policy would not be easy because it should be applied evenly nationwide, China Daily reported. The population authority alone can’t handle such a plan as it requires consensus and cooperation among all authorities, Wang said.

Read More: Top Demographer Says China Should Allow Three or More Children

Government subsidies may not be a panacea. They had limited success in countries such as Singapore because people tend to have fewer children when they’re wealthier and more educated, according to Chen Xingdong, chief China economist at BNP Paribas SA in Beijing.

“The mindset of the entire nation is switching from controlling births to worrying about low births,” Chen said. “But many parents would still be reluctant to have kids even if the government encourages them to.”

Births reached 17.86 million last year, a 1.3-million increase from 2015, official statistics show. The policy would lead to about 17 million additional births by 2020, and add 30 million young workers by 2050, the family planning commission said in late 2015. The larger labor supply would boost the economy’s potential growth rate by 0.5 percentage point, it said.

The working-age population has been shrinking as a result of aging and low birth rates, draining the labor supply. About one in three Chinese will be older than 60 by 2050, compared with about one in seven now, posing challenges to the social welfare system.

— With assistance by Xiaoqing Pi, and Hui Li

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28Feb 2017

Trump's Travel Ban Cost The US At Least $185 Million, Report Says – Huffington Post


President Donald Trump is all about business, but one of his first actions prompted a slump in business travel to the U.S.

Numerous reports show interest in both business and leisure travel to the U.S. declined since Trump took office. But there was an especially dramatic plunge after he signed a now-suspended executive order on travel Jan. 27 that barred some immigrants and visitors from majority Muslim nations from entering the country, according to data from the travel site Hopper. 

Hopper

Online searches for flights to the U.S. have dipped since several times since Trump took office, according to analysis from Hopper. As shown in this graph, there was no similar dip in January 2016. See a larger image here.

The U.S. lost about $185 million in business travel bookings the week after Trump’s travel ban took effect, according to a report from the Global Business Travel Association, which represents corporate travel managers and professionals. Business travel to and from the U.S. had been increasing the week before the ban was instated, but it decreased the week after by more than two percent.

That may sound like a small percentage, but it’s a yuge deal: For every 1 percent change in business travel spending annually, the U.S. loses 71,000 jobs and nearly $5 billion in gross domestic product, according to the GBTA.

Other economists found that Los Angeles County alone could lose the equivalent of $736 million in tourism spending over three years as a result of Trump’s travel ban, The New York Times reported. 

“There was too much uncertainty and a lack of clarity around the executive order, leading to general confusion,” the GBTA wrote in a blog post. “The net effect was that business travel bookings were delayed or canceled.”

About half of its European members reported their companies plan to cut back on business travel over the next three months, the GBTA said. The group was polled before a judge issued a temporary restraining order that halted Trump’s ban. 

Dips in travel happen often, of course, but it appears Trump’s travel ban is the specific cause for this one. Hannah Sampson, a business travel analyst at Skift, says her conversations with corporate leaders are further proof: Many don’t want to send their employees overseas for fear Trump will pull another ban that could leave them stuck, she says.

“Companies who are responsible for travelers just don’t want to take the risk,” Sampson told HuffPost. “There’s a lot of overarching caution right now.”

It’s ironic that a president promising to bolster U.S. businesses would cause a dip in business travel. Overall travel is taking a hit right along with it, according Hopper’s analysis of searches from multiple engines. 

As of Feb. 22, flight searches to the U.S. from other countries had declined 17 percent since Trump’s inauguration, compared to Barack Obama’s final weeks in office, Hopper said. There was a mere 1.8 percent decline over a similar time period in 2016, and a 5 percent decline over a similar period in 2015. According to the Times, Cheapflights.com saw international searches for flights to the U.S. drop 38 percentin the three days after Trump signed the executive order. 

This fluctuation is not normal, according to Hopper: “There is more than a simple seasonal variation going on,” a spokesman told HuffPost in a statement. 

Searches dropped significantly following the travel ban in 103 of the 122 countries for which Hopper has data, with an average drop of 22 percent.

In an extremely abnormal surge, flight searches from Russian travelers rose a whopping 88 percent from three weeks before the inauguration through Feb. 7. 

Trump’s travel ban was suspended in court earlier this month, and he is expected to sign a replacement executive order this week. Wanna escape all the drama? We know just the place. 

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28Feb 2017

Travel rewards or cash back? Tips on finding the best credit card for you – USA TODAY


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Cutting up your credit cards sometimes seems like the only way to ensure a balance of zero every month. But there is an alternative. (Contributing to the story, Erin Ellis, Financial Educator at Philadelphia Federal Credit Union (PFCU))
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If finding the right credit card feels like a daunting task, you’re not alone.

With options ranging from travel rewards to cash back and sign-on bonuses, there are many options, but not all are the right choice for you.

Nick Clements, co-Founder of MagnifyMoney.com, said the question isn’t what the best credit card is, but what the best credit card is for the consumer and what they plan to use it for.

Clements, who worked in consumer banking for most of his career, said consumers should start by asking themselves two things: Are you using the card to borrow money? Or are you using the card to optimize travel or cash back rewards?

Let’s start with people using the card to borrow

“If you need the card to borrow, I put borrowing into two simple categories – 1. You’ve already got debt, or 2. You need to make a purchase and know you need to finance that purchase,” Clements said.

1.  Those trying to pay off debt: For those who already have debt and need to pay it off quickly, Clements recommends looking for a balance transfer credit card deal that has no transfer fee and low to zero interest.

“A famous one out there is Chase Slate, which has no balance transfer fee and no interest for 15 months,” he says. “If you have two to three thousand dollars in debt, move it to Chase Slate and if you pay it off in 15 months, there is no annual fee, no interest, and no transfer fee.”

He said other options include a credit union with no fee and no interest, but you have to make sure you pay it off before the interest hits.

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2.    You want to make a big purchase and need to finance it: If  your water heater breaks or you’re slammed with an expensive purchase you can’t afford, be wary of financing anything at the checkout counter, Clements says.

When the hardware store offers you a card with 0% on your purchase for 12 months, don’t skip the fine print, Clements said.

“Most retail offerings have what’s called deferred interest, so if they give you 0% for 9 to12 months and if you don’t pay off at the end of that time you get hit with interest retroactively from the date of the purchase,” he said. And that can be a lot of money.

He points to credit cards that offer 0% interest on purchases for a set period of time and no retroactive interest if you don’t pay off the entire purchase by the end of that period, such as the introductory offer from the CITI Simplicity card.

“I have a general rule, which is if someone is selling me a credit product at the end of a purchase journey I am probably getting a bad deal,” he said. “You can get much better deals if you do your homework in advance.”

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Now the fun stuff: Cards that help you earn points, travel miles or cash back

Clement said whether it’s cash back or rewards when you use your credit card at a store, the merchant pays an “interchange or merchant fee” to the credit card issuer. He said consumers’ goal should be “to get as much back as possible of that.”

First ask yourself whether travel is a big part of your life or if you are mostly spending on groceries, gas and taking small trips. If you’re the latter, the cash back may be your best bet, he said.

Cash back

For those looking for cash back deals, Clements pointed to CITI Double Cash and Fidelity Rewards Visa. The CITI card offers 1% when you make a purchase and 1% when you pay your bill, while Fidelity offers 2% cash back on all purchases.

The only catch? You have to pay your statement in full and on time each month.

Clements said for families who are spending a great deal on groceries; the American Express Blue Cash Preferred card may be a good option. There is a $95 fee, but 6% on grocery purchases up to $6,000. He said for those who are extremely disciplined, an option could be to use the American Express Blue Cash Preferred for all groceries and then CITI Double Cash for all other purchases.

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Travel rewards

Clements said for those with a travel itch, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card can get consumers 2 points for every dollar spent in restaurants and on travel.

Card holders can redeem the points for travel in the Chase portal.

Airline travel credit cards

Clement said if you are dedicated to a particular airline like Delta or American Airlines, an airline credit card might work for you.  He points to those who do a lot of traveling with a particular airline and would like to increase their miles.

“If you know during the year, you’ll earn 70,000 flying for business, and at 100,000 you get a better flight, an airline credit card] is a good way to top up,” he said.

The other people the card could benefit, are those who fly Delta or American Airlines often enough that the perks of having an airline card, like priority boarding or additional checked bag waivers, may negate the annual fee.

Follow Mary Bowerman on Twitter: @MaryBowerman 

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A secured credit card is mainly for young people looking for their first credit card or those looking to restart their financial life and build new credit.
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28Feb 2017

Ambulance 'frequent flyers' cost EMS time and money – WALB-TV


DOUGHERTY CO., GA (WALB) -

Emergency Medical Services across the country face the challenge of people who call for ambulance service again and again, when there is not a real EMS needed.

Most South Georgia county EMS services tell us they have a certain number of people they call “Frequent Flyers,” people who call 911 and request an ambulance when it’s not a real emergency.

Now, WALB’s Jim Wallace examines the high cost those free rides could put on a community.

Emergency officials say they get these calls almost daily calls for emergency medical services, that might not be a real emergency.

“It’s a risk anytime you get on the road with an emergency vehicle, because you are running emergency mode,” said Albany Fire Department Fire Chief Ron Rowe.

Dispatcher: 911, what is your emergency? What’s the problem? 

Caller 1: I got a, I stepped on a nail and my feet still swelling up.

Caller 2: I’m having trouble with my throat and my nose.

Caller 3: I don’t know. I been having a lot of heartburn.

“We’re going to go, regardless of what the call comes in as,” said Dougherty County EMS Director Greg Rowe.

Emergency services have to treat every call as the real thing, but on average Dougherty County officials say they get one “frequent flyer” per day.

Officials describe a frequent flyer as someone who calls for an ambulance trip to the emergency room, when a doctor visit is more appropriate. 

But emergency officials say the high rate of poverty in Albany explains why many frequent flyers may just want a free ride.

“Because they don’t have transportation to a health service provider or anything of that nature. So an ambulance is the immediate response,” said Ron Rowe

EMS Director Greg Rowe estimates each ambulance run costs the county about $191. 

While the frequent flyer’s insurance often can not pay back that cost, there is a much more costly danger to the community in these unnecessary calls.

The good news is that for the last three years, Dougherty County has managed to stay under-budget despite the cost.

  • 2014: Allocated $4.1 million, spent $3,692,785
  • 2015: Allocated $4.1 million, spent $3,799,997
  • 2016: Allocated $4.1 million, spent $3,900,000
  • 2017: Allocates $4.4 million

“Anytime a truck goes out, that pretty much leaves that territory open,” said Greg Rowe.

When one county paramedic crew is servicing a frequent flyer, if a real medical emergency like a car crash or a stroke occurs, it has to be served by the nearest station’s ambulance. 

“It is going to add 3 to 6 minutes to that call,” said Greg Rowe.

Which could be the difference between life and death.

A cost of unnecessary ambulance service to frequent flyers that no one wants to pay.

But what officials call the future of EMS service could be an answer to this problem. 

Computerized Medical services for 911 calls that are not emergency needs. 

A crew with a computerized link to a remote physician to examine the patient on line.

“That physician can basically sit right there and guide you with that tool. And he can see exactly what he needs to see, and guides direction at that point.  That would reduce a lot of hospital visits,” said Greg Rowe.

Computerized Doctor checks could be the future of EMS, but for now ambulances continue to roll each time someone calls 911.

Even if paramedics know it could be a frequent flyer calling again.

First responders want you to remember many calls that don’t sound like medical emergency could be. They can’t be sure without being dispatched to the scene.

Copyright 2017 WALB. All rights reserved. 

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28Feb 2017

Rewards Credit Cards Don't Always Pay Off, But Here's When They Do – Forbes