Day: January 22, 2024

Let Apple be Apple — consumers don’t need DOJ intervention 

Apple is a lifestyle brand. The $2.8 trillion company, founded by Ronald Wayne, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, is known to the world as an innovator in consumer technology, but using Apple products is widely seen as a lifestyle choice embraced by consumers. 

I’m an Apple guy. My devices are all synced, from the iPhone to the Macbook Pro, the Apple Watch and the HomePod mini. No one coerced me into this way of living, but that hasn’t stopped the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) from investigating Apple and concocting yet another vast antitrust case against an American company.  

As of today, President Biden’s Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has taken Amazon and Meta to court over alleged anti-competitive practices, and the DOJ has hit Google with two antitrust suits targeting Google Search and their ad services. According to The New York Times, the DOJ is still calculating whether or not to bring its multipronged antitrust complaint against Apple.  

What stands out in the Times’s report on the investigation is that it reads like Apple’s competitors are behind the steering wheel of their very own government agency. David McCabe and Tripp Mickle write, “Rivals have said that they have been denied access to key Apple features, like the Siri virtual assistant, prompting them to argue the practices are anticompetitive.”  

Imagine the classroom slacker making the case to the teacher that the straight-A student in the front of the class is being anti-competitive by not sharing their lecture notes with them.  

It’s one thing to maliciously penalize or seek to inconvenience consumers for having a mixed assortment of technology from Apple, LG, Samsung, Nokia and Google. It’s another thing entirely for the government to say that Apple has to design its products for Samsung to piggyback on and then offer to their loyal customers as a perk of not doing business with Apple. Investigators are spending taxpayer dollars to find out why the Apple Watch works more smoothly with the iPhone than with rival brands.  

Does the DOJ work for Samsung or the American people?  

This mindset is exactly what went wrong in court for FTC chair Lina Khan when she threw the once-relevant consumer protection agency between the Microsoft and Activision-Blizzard merger, a case that District Court Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley indicated seemed to be a benefit to Sony, a Japanese firm, more than American consumers. 

None of this is to say Apple is a perfect company, or that it’s behaved like a free enterprise angel throughout every aspect of its business. It hasn’t. Its long-time reliance on manufacturing and investments in China, and how that steers its business, is a big one. But that Apple makes intentionally integrated products that foster brand loyalty and consumer satisfaction is special in the landscape of American tech. Apple is a seamless experience for consumers like myself who are not huge techies, but rather novices who place a premium on convenience and ease of use. 

The reality for Apple is that it operates in a global marketplace with different rules of the road on almost every continent. The European Union is very close to forcing open Apple’s App Store model to allow for third-party app stores on their devices, a provision of the 2022 Digital Markets Act. The EU has also directed its regulatory energies on requiring device manufacturers to have a universal charging port, further removing design distinctions between major tech brands.  

In the United States, Apple narrowly fended off the maker of Fortnite, Epic Games, in a high-profile lawsuit contending Apple held an unfair monopoly over payment processing for in-app purchases. The case failed when the courts correctly acknowledged that Apple does not hold a monopoly in the mobile games market. 

Tech firms may all be united in that they are the target of never-before-seen political scrutiny in Washington, but they are still competitors. You can see this in how they fight government regulation of their business with one hand, and request government help in slowing down their competition with the other. 

Meta reportedly “encouraged” the Justice Department to look into Apple’s new consumer privacy tool, App Tracking Transparency, which empowers iPhone owners to customize and cut off data collection by advertisers of their choosing. It is not a coincidence that Meta anticipates a $10 billion loss in revenue from this useful tool Apple designed for consumers concerned with privacy.  

None of this is new. Successful companies and established industries have always sought to use the federal government as both a cudgel and a shield to protect their interests. For those of us chiefly concerned with consumer satisfaction and welfare, there is no temptation to choose winners and losers in the market.  

Let Apple be Apple, and let consumers choose.  

Originally published here

New Trade Boss Is Same as the Old Trade Boss

President Biden places a significant premium on creating contrast with his predecessor, Donald Trump. However, regarding tariffs on certain imports, the plan is to keep things more or less the same. 

Recent reports indicate that the Biden administration is evaluating $300 billion worth of Chinese goods that Trump saddled with tariffs using Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974. Consumers will eat the costs, as they always do with protectionist policies. And it doesn’t seem to matter which party consumers vote for.

Inflation has been gradually cooling in the United States, offering consumers some much-needed relief after 2022 saw declines in household earnings due to higher prices. The easing of inflation has given Biden what he thinks is political wiggle room to further ding China on trade, bolstering his image with voters as tough on a foreign rival.

This is not how a free market economy is meant to work. An election year shouldn’t deliver higher consumer prices on select goods that don’t make the president’s Nice List. Electric vehicles with Chinese components and mineral-based products will remain artificially more expensive if tariffs continue and may even see an increase if Biden opts to turn the screws even tighter.

It’s a puzzling move for an administration that has touted fighting climate change as America’s most critical national security imperative, as tariffs will also inflate the price of clean energy technology. Consumers will flock to electric vehicles when the price is right and the reliability of the tech increases.

Tariffs will also contribute to disruptions in an already crisis-plagued global supply chain. Military operations against Iran-backed Houthi pirates in the Red Sea are blowing up the logistics of commercial shipping vessels worldwide. Roughly 30 percent of the world’s container shipments move through the Suez Canal, and the security risk has doubled shipping times and, in turn, will raise consumer prices.

Breakdowns in diplomatic relations and military primacy in strategic regions like the Red Sea or South China Sea do not come without consequence for Americans and their pocketbooks.

Research from the American Action Forum in 2023 found that the cost of tariffs was passed on to consumers to the tune of $48 billion since being implemented by  Trump. That Biden would knowingly continue with this policy to score points looking tough with the Chinese is an insult to every American struggling to keep up with the costs of living.

Instead of resorting to steeper tariffs, the Biden administration is focused on lowering the cost of doing business in America for domestic industries. Blanket tariffs do little more than sweep larger economic problems under the rug for the next administration to find. The problem with dirt under the rug is that the next guy probably won’t sweep it up, and the losers are American consumers.

Originally published here

Augmentation des billets de trains: à quad la véritable concurrence?

Pourquoi la SNCF augmente ses prix tandis que sa concurrence, qui doit aussi payer ses trains, son personnel et son énergie, réduit les siens ?

Les associations d’usagers de Normandie ont déjà exprimé leur mécontentement concernant les tarifs des trains, suite à la hausse moyenne de 6% mise en place pour 2023. De plus, il a été annoncé qu’il y aurait une augmentation supplémentaire en 2024« On est toujours dans un contexte inflationniste et la convention qu’on vient de signer avec SNCF pour dix ans prévoit qu’on paie des augmentations tarifaires”, explique Jean-Baptiste Gastinne, le vice-président de la région de Normandie.

Bien que la libéralisation du réseau ferroviaire soit devenue une loi par le biais d’une directive de l’Union européenne, de nombreux Etats membres de l’UE ont traîné les pieds pour la mettre en oeuvre.

Les opérateurs ferroviaires privés ne parviennent pas à s’intégrer correctement dans le réseau ferroviaire et à concurrencer la SNCF. Sur la ligne Paris-Lyon, l’opérateur public italien Trenitalia a montré qu’il était possible de réduire le coût du réseau TGV et d’améliorer l’efficacité de la ligne.

En général, les réseaux SNCF vont augmenter les prix des TGV de 7,6% en 2024, ceux des TER de 8%. Les trains OUIGO et les Intercités auront un gel des prix, qui ont déjà bien augmenté en 2023. Cependent, Trenitalia a annoncé une baisse des prix à venir. Un rapport de l’Autorité de régulation des transports en 2022 a montré que les régions françaises qui ont adopté la concurrence ont vu leurs services, en termes de fréquence et de qualité, s’améliorer considérablement, avec des coûts réduits de 25% en moyenne. Comment se fait-il que la SNCF augmente ses prix tandis que sa concurrence, qui doit elle aussi payer ses trains, son personnel et son énergie, réduit les siens ?

La réponse se trouve dans les choix des consommateurs.

Il est vrai que sur les grandes lignes comme Paris-Lyon, les consommateurs ont un ensemble de choix, et pas seulement au sein du rail. Il s’agit d’une distance que l’on peut parcourir avec sa propre voiture, une voiture de location ou même en covoiturage ; on peut utiliser un service de bus longue distance ou même prendre l’avion (malgré l’interdiction des vols directs, il serait possible de voler de Lyon à Paris avec une correspondance à l’étranger). Cela dit, des millions de Français n’ont pas le luxe de ces options et dépendent trop souvent des services de la SNCF pour aller d’un point A à un point B, soit parce que c’est le seul service qui les relie, soit simplement parce que c’est de loin le seul efficace.

Tant qu’il en sera ainsi, les usagers seront dépendants de la SNCF. Les prix de l’entreprise ferroviaire publique n’augmentent pas parce que la SNCF ne se soucie pas de rivaliser avec Trenitalia sur la ligne Paris-Lyon, mais parce qu’elle ne DOIT pas s’en soucier dans de nombreuses autres régions.

L’Italie est l’exemple même d’un pays qui connaît les avantages de la concurrence ferroviaire. Lorsque Rome a ouvert son réseau ferroviaire à grande vitesse aux concurrents privés, Trenitalia, l’entreprise publique, a dû redoubler d’efforts, améliorer ses prix et ses services. Cela a pris du temps, mais les liaisons ferroviaires dépassent aujourd’hui de loin les liaisons aériennes sur de nombreux itinéraires. En fait, on pourrait dire que les difficultés de l’ancienne compagnie Alitalia, aujourd’hui ITA Airways (qui est en cours de rachat par Lufthansa), sont dues au fait que de nombreux vols intérieurs en Italie ont été rendus inutiles par la concurrence ferroviaire.

Dans de nombreux Etats membres, les marchés publics pour l’exploitation des chemins de fer sont attribués aux entreprises publiques en place, qui garantissent ensuite l’exploitation des lignes pour ces entreprises pendant parfois dix années supplémentaires. Cela signifie que les opérateurs ferroviaires privés, ou les concurrents étrangers, qu’ils soient privés ou publics, ne peuvent pas mettre un pied dans la porte.

En outre, certains pays entretiennent des relations complexes entre les compagnies ferroviaires, les infrastructures ferroviaires et les gares qui, dans certains cas, appartiennent à une société du même nom, mais sont censées fonctionner de manière indépendante. ALLRAIL, l’association professionnelle représentant les opérateurs ferroviaires privés, s’est plainte du fait que le gouvernement allemand ne subventionne pas l’infrastructure ferroviaire, mais la Deutsche Bahn (DB). Cependant, cela conduit à une situation où la DB peut utiliser ces subventions pour ses filiales, y compris le transport ferroviaire de marchandises sur des continents autres que l’Europe, au lieu de se contenter d’améliorer le réseau ferroviaire.

La Commission européenne a obligé les Etats membres à ouvrir leurs chemins de fer à la concurrence, mais comme pour de nombreuses directives, le diable se cache dans les détails. Les défis sont nombreux sur la route qui mène à un marché ferroviaire compétitif pour les citoyens européens. La concurrence en libre accès sera probablement contrariée par le lobbying des compagnies ferroviaires en place.

Originally published here

A generational ban on tobacco products is a bad idea

Sweden has found nicotine alternatives are better way to kick smoking

When the city of Brookline passed a generational ban on tobacco products in 2020, it was an extraordinary legal maneuver. The age-gating of goods on an incremental level prevents anyone born after January 1, 2000 from buying any tobacco-related products within city limits. 

It is a policy dreamed up by many in public health who have sought to replicate it elsewhere, including in New Zealand, Malaysia, and, now, the UK.

Now, however, a constitutional challenge in the Massachusetts courts is revisiting whether the health ordinance is legal to enforce. And it’s about time.

Despite already increasing the age limit to purchase tobacco from 19 to 21 and banning flavored tobacco products throughout the state, proponents are claiming that a full generational ban is a sure-fire way to eliminate youth use. But we know it isn’t, as the numbers already show us.

While it shouldn’t need restating, prohibition never works. In 2020, Massachusetts became the first state to ban all flavored tobacco products, again in effort to curb youth use. However, according to the Massachusetts Illegal Tobacco Task Force, the ban resulted in increased interstate smuggling of tobacco products, more tobacco-related police interactions, and a loss in tax revenue for the state. 

Ultimately, the flavor ban did not eliminate consumer use of flavored tobacco products. It just shifted where consumers purchased their goods. Which means the estimated 587,000 adults who smoke in Massachusetts likely had to turn to alternative sources to purchase tobacco products they prefer. 

When a product is banned, then consumers often go to the illicit market to find their desired products. This poses great concern, as the illicit market does not have to abide by product regulations and certainly is not performing age verification on purchases.

California followed in Massachusetts’ footsteps by banning flavored tobacco products in 2022, and further saw an extreme increase in the illicit market where brands known to be trafficked in by Mexican cartels. This suggests that tens of millions of packs are illegally entering California. It’s doubtful that this is the public health “win” tobacco control activists are looking for. 

While Brookline is the first in the US to pass a generational tobacco ban, there are international examples of similar policy. Both New Zealand and Malaysia have attempted to implement a generational tobacco ban, but have since pulled back after backlashes showed up in polling and disagreements over taxation. The Conservative government in the United Kingdom has plans to implement such a ban, but has also faced severe backlash from its more liberty-oriented  grassroots.

Rather than put all our cards on failed generational policies, it would be better to look globally towards policies that have helped reduce smoking prevalence. Sweden is a great example, as the World Health Organization announced that they are likely to become the first smoke-free country. 

Interestingly, Sweden is not succeeding using bans and prohibition, but rather through the concept of harm reduction. The Swedish government has recognized that nicotine alternatives, such as vaping, nicotine pouches, and snus, are significantly less harmful than smoking combustible tobacco and have therefore encouraged its citizens to make the switch. As a result, Sweden reduced its smoking rate by 55 percent in the last decade and has the lowest incidence of cancer within the European Union. 

While the desire to reduce youth use of tobacco products and overall smoking prevalence is a noble and important goal, it will be imperative that policymakers understand the serious unintended consequences of prohibition. 

As other countries have shown us, embracing tobacco harm reduction, not prohibition, will be the best strategy to improve public health in Massachusetts. That’s a great idea in any generation.

Originally published here

Pentingnya Dukungan Organisasi Masyarakat untuk Upaya Harm Reduction dari Rokok

Rokok saat ini masih menjadi salah satu masalah kesehatan publik berbagai negara di seluruh dunia. Di dalam satu batang rokok, terkandung berbagai zat berbahaya yang dapat membawa berbagai penyakit kronis, seperti kanker dan penyakit jantung, yang tentunya memiliki dampak yang sangat besar tidak hanya bagi individu yang menggunakannya tetapi juga secara sosial.

Sudah menjadi rahasia umum bahwa, di Indonesia sendiri, rokok juga merupakan salah satu penyebab berbagai penyakit kronis yang dialami oleh saudara-saudara sebangsa kita. Di Indonesia sendiri ada 112 juta jumlah perokok aktif, dan merupakan salah satu negara dengan jumlah perokok tertinggi di dunia (databoks.katadata.co.id, 05/06/2023).

Angka 112 juta sendiri tentu bukan angka yang kecil, dan sudah sebaiknya dapat kita tekan agar jumlah tersebut berkurang secara drastis. Karena banyaknya angka tersebut, tentunya biaya kesehatan yang disebabkan oleh rokok di Indonesia juga tidak kecil. Pada tahun 2019 lalu misalnya, diestimasi penyakit yang disebabkan oleh rokok telah menelan biaya hingga 16,3 triliun rupiah (kemkes.go.id, 29/4/2021).

Karena memiliki dampak yang sangat berbahaya, maka tidak mengherankan berbagai negara di dunia memberlakukan serangkaian kebijakan yang ditujukan untuk menanggulangi dampak tersebut. Kebijakan tersebut diberlakukan dalam berbagai bentuk, mulai dari mengenakan biaya cukai yang tinggi, mengatur peredaran dan penjulaan produk-produk hasil olahan temabaku, hingga pelarangan total seluruh kegiatan produksi dan konsumsi rokok.

Negara kita sendiri sudah memberlakukan berbagai kebijakan yang ditujukan untuk mengurangi jumlah konsumen rokok. Beberapa diantaranya adalah kebijakan cukai produk hasil olahan tembakau yang semakin meningkat, dan juga aturan kewajiban bagi para produsen untuk menunjukkan bahaya rokok di depan setiap bungkus rokok yang dijual di berbagai tempat.

Adanya berbagai upaya tersebut sekilas memang terlihat berpotensi dapat menggurangi jumlah perokok. Diharapkan, jika harga rokok semakin mahal, dan edukasi publik melalui gambar yang menunjukkan bahaya rokok semakin gencar, maka insentif seseorang untuk menghisap produk hasil tembakau tersebut dapat semakin berkurang, dan akan dapat semakin menekan jumlah perokok di Indonesia.

Tetapi, pada kenyataannya, jumlah perokok di Indonesia semakin meningkat dari tahun ke tahun. Pada tahun 2011 misalnya, ada sekitar 60,3 juta perokok aktif di Indonesia. Tetapi, dalam jangka waktu 10 tahun, pada tahun 2021, jumlah perokok di Indonesia meningkat 8,8 juta orang menjadi 69,1 juta (kemkes.go.id, 3/6/2022).

Hal ini tentu bukan sesuatu yang mengherankan, mengingat bahwa rokok mengandung nikotin yang membuat para penggunanya mengalami kecanduan. Untuk mengatasi kecanduan tentu tidak bisa hanya melalui peningkatan harga dan juga sosialisasi bahaya dari produk tersebut.

Salah satu cara yang saat ini digunakan untuk menanggulangi dampak negatif dari rokok, seperti Inggris misalnya, adalah melalui produk-produk alternatif yang jauh lebih tidak berbahaya untuk menggantikan rokok. Diantaranya yang cukup sering dipakai adalah rokok elektrik, atau yang dikenal dengan nama vape.

Berdasarkan penelitian dari lembaga kesehatan Inggris misalnya, vape atau rokok elektrik merupakan produk yang 95% jauh lebih tidak berbahaya bila dibandingkan dengan rokok konvensional yang dibakar. Maka dari itu, National Health Service (NHS) Inggris misalnya, menyatakan bahwa vape merupakan alat yang bisa digunakan oleh para perokok untuk membantu mereka untuk berhenti merokok (nhs.uk, 10/10/2022).

Namun, penggunaan vape sebagai alat yang dapat digunakan untuk membantu perokok untuk berhenti merokok sendiri masih mengalami banyak tantangan di Indonesia. Hal ini disebabkan berbagai hal, mulai dari informasi yang kurang diketahui oleh masyarakat, maupun banyak masyarakat yang lebih terbiasa menggunakan rokok konvensional yang dibakar dibandingkan dengan rokok elektrik.

Untuk itu peran berbagai lapisan masyarakat untuk membantu mensukseskan upaya untuk mengurangi jumlah perokok di Indonesia adalah hal yang sangat penting, dan tidak hanya oleh lembaga pemerintah. Salah satunya adalah organisasi masyarakat yang memiliki jumlah anggota yang besar.

Organisasi masyarkaat, terlebih lagi yang sudah memiliki jutaan anggota, memiliki potensi yang sangat besar untuk mensukseskan upaya tersebut. Berita baiknya, sudah ada organisasi yang mendukung upaya tersebut, salah satunya adalah organisasi keagamaan Nahdlatul Ulama (NU).

NU sendiri merupakan organisasi massa Islam terbesar, bukan hanya di Indonesia, tetapi juga di dunia. Lembaga Kajian dan Pengembangan Sumber Daya Manusia (Lakpesdam) Pengurus Besar Nahdlatul Ulama (PBNU) menyampaikan misalnya, mendukung kebijakan yang berbasis ilmu pengetahuan dalam kaitannya dengan rokok (republika.co.id, 18/5/2023).

Lakpesdam PBNU sendiri juga menyampaikan bahwa, pengurangan resiko tembakau dengan memanfaatkan produk tembakau alternatif di Indonesia sangat penting untuk dimaksimalkan. Hal ini karena jumlah perokok di Indonesia sangat tinggi, dan dibutuhkan solusi untuk mengatasi hal tersebut (vapemagz.co.id, 6/11/2023).

Sebagai penutup, adanya dukungan untuk langkah harm reduction untuk mengurangi dampak negatif rokok, dan juga dukungan untuk melakukan riset dan penelitian, dari organisasi yang sangat besar seperti NU tentu merupakan sesuatu yang harus kita apresiasi. Dengan demikian, diharapkan upaya harm reduction di Indonesia dapat semakin sukses dan ke depan jumlah perokok di Indonesia dapat semakin berkurang.

Originally published here

The German Government Gambled Against Farmers and Lost

In December, a convoy of 1,700 tractors blocked the main road to Berlin’s iconic Brandenburg Gate. Honking and chanting could be heard all over the city as farmers bashed the government’s plan to end tax breaks on fuel and agricultural vehicles in the 2024 budget. 

Under Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the government needs to make cuts of $18.5 billion in this year’s budget or find additional revenues. Ending tax breaks on farm vehicles and fuel would raise a little over $1 billion but would threaten the farmers’ livelihoods, their representatives say.

The German government comprises three political parties: the social democrat SPD, the Green Party, and the liberal-democrat FDP. Greens and FDP say they reject dragging down farmers with a tax hike but struggle to reign in government spending. The constitutional debt limit in Germany bars the government from borrowing its way out of the current budget crisis. The coalition is already on shaky feet after an internal FDP vote decided narrowly to continue being a part of it.

Making farmers the target by levying further taxes is not merely an act of fiscal desperation. Across Europe, governments are concerned over the environmental impact of farming and how that reflects on their global warming emissions. A slimmer farm sector would satisfy this environmental accounting because imported products from abroad do not count as domestic emissions.

Greenpeace has been at the forefront of arguing in favor of these tax hikes, implying that farmers are unnecessarily dramatic and privileged, asserting the agricultural sector “must play its part in achieving the climate targets and switch to fuel-saving and climate-friendly drive systems. The technology is available, and the first e-tractors are already in use.” 

The fact that electric tractors easily come at double the cost of conventional diesel tractors is left out of Greenpeace’s statement.

Greenpeace has had a significant effect on Germany’s policies. The former chief of Greenpeace International, Jennifer Morgan, now serves as special envoy for international climate policy under Germany’s Green foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock.

Despite the lobbying for tax hikes, the German government reversed course last week, deciding that tax hikes on agricultural vehicles would be scrapped. Those on diesel would be phased out over many years “to give companies more time to adjust.” This is a win for farmers despite early indications from organizers that they will continue to call for protests.

Once again, this shows the power of farmers who seek to be politically active and make their voices heard. An earlier example was the Dutch farmer protests against stringent rules on nitrous oxide emissions, in which the Dutch government was seeking to buy out a large set of livestock farmers in the country. Most farmers made it clear to politicians in The Hague: We value our profession and do not want to be considered a problem to be solved by our own government. 

Ultimately, a farmers’ party won the provincial election in the Netherlands, creating a roadblock in the government agenda that would enable the buyout program.

Farming also represented a significant issue in the recent Dutch parliamentary elections. Prime Minister Mark Rutte and his party were ousted and relegated to a less important position.

A rule of thumb in European politics is the following: If you act against the interests of farmers, you are bound to lose. Politicians in Berlin might think they changed course before they could find out — but it will very well be too late for their political reputation in any of the coming elections.

Originally published here

JS-SEZ tingkat akses, pilihan pasaran pengguna

Pusat Pilihan Pengguna (CCC) percaya perjanjian mewujudkan Zon Ekonomi Khas Johor-Singapura (JS-SEZ) dapat menyumbang kepada persekitaran yang lebih baik untuk pengguna di Malaysia dan Singapura, terutama dari segi akses kepada pasaran dan pilihan pengguna.

Wakil CCC Malaysia, Tarmizi Anuwar berkata, memorandum persefahaman (MoU) JS-SEZ mampu menarik lebih banyak pelaburan asing, meningkatkan pembangunan ekonomi dan menggalakkan perdagangan antarabangsa antara Malaysia serta Singapura.

“Lazimnya, zon ekonomi khas memberi tumpuan kepada aktiviti berorientasikan eksport yang mana perniagaan  mengeluarkan barangan dan perkhidmatan untuk pasaran antarabangsa antara Malaysia dan Singapura.

“Secara tidak langsung, ini memudahkan pengaliran barangan dan perkhidmatan antara kedua-dua negara. Apabila usahawan mengakses lebih banyak peluang ini kemudian mampu menyediakan pengguna dengan pelbagai pilihan yang lebih luas,” katanya dalam kenyataan.

Berhubung inisiatif menggunakan kod QR di pusat pemeriksaan darat, beliau berpendapat, penghapusan keperluan pasport memudahkan perjalanan pengguna dan menggalakkan pelancongan antara negara. 

Read the full text here

Le mauvais pari du gouvernement Allemand contre ses agriculteurs

A la suite d’importantes protestations, le gouvernement allemand a fait volte-face et a renoncé à augmenter les impôts des agriculteurs. 

Fin décembre, un convoi de 1 700 tracteurs a bloqué la route principale menant à l’emblématique porte de Brandebourg à Berlin. Des klaxons et des chants ont été entendus dans tout le centre-ville, les agriculteurs dénonçant le projet du gouvernement de mettre fin aux exonérations fiscales sur le carburant et les véhicules agricoles dans le budget 2024.

Le gouvernement du chancelier social-démocrate Olaf Scholz doit procéder à des réductions de 17 milliards d’euros dans le budget de cette année ou trouver des recettes supplémentaires. La suppression des avantages fiscaux sur les véhicules agricoles et le carburant permettrait de récolter un milliard d’euros, mais menacerait les moyens de subsistance des agriculteurs, affirment leurs représentants.

Le gouvernement allemand actuel est composé de trois partis politiques : le parti social-démocrate SPD, le parti vert et le parti libéral-démocrate FDP. Les Verts et le FDP affirment tous deux qu’ils refusent de tirer les agriculteurs vers le bas en augmentant les impôts, mais ils luttent aussi manifestement pour limiter les dépenses de l’Etat. La limite constitutionnelle de la dette en Allemagne empêche le gouvernement d’emprunter pour sortir de la crise budgétaire actuelle. La coalition est déjà fragilisée par un vote interne du FDP qui a décidé, de justesse, de continuer à en faire partie.

Il est clair que faire des agriculteurs la cible de nouvelles taxes n’est pas seulement un acte de désespoir fiscal. Dans toute l’Europe, les gouvernements s’inquiètent de l’impact environnemental de l’agriculture et de son incidence sur les émissions de gaz à effet de serre. Un secteur agricole moins important satisferait en fin de compte cette comptabilité environnementale, car les produits importés de l’étranger ne sont pas comptabilisés dans les émissions nationales.

« L’agriculture a besoin d’une sécurité de planification, c’est pourquoi ces choses, telles qu’elles ont été décidées du jour au lendemain – à court terme et sans concertation avec la profession – étaient erronées dès le départ », explique même un politicien social-démocrate à Berlin à la radio allemande RBB.

Il va sans dire que Greenpeace a été en première ligne pour défendre ces hausses de taxes, laissant entendre que les agriculteurs sont inutilement dramatiques et privilégiés, affirmant que « le secteur agricole doit jouer son rôle dans la réalisation des objectifs climatiques et passer à des systèmes d’entraînement économes en carburant et respectueux du climat« . Le fait que les tracteurs électriques coûtent facilement deux fois plus cher que les tracteurs diesel conventionnels n’est pas mentionné dans le communiqué de presse de Greenpeace.

L’organisation écologiste américaine a eu un impact significatif sur les politiques allemandes. En effet, l’ancienne directrice de Greenpeace International, Jennifer Morgan, est envoyée spéciale pour la politique climatique internationale auprès de la ministre verte des affaires étrangères, Annalena Baerbock.

Cependant, malgré le lobbying des écologistes en faveur d’une augmentation des taxes, le gouvernement allemand a fait volte-face la semaine dernière en décidant que les taxes sur les véhicules agricoles seraient supprimées et que celles sur le diesel seraient progressivement éliminées sur plusieurs années « pour donner aux entreprises plus de temps pour s’adapter ». Il s’agit d’une victoire pour les agriculteurs allemands, même si les premières indications des organisateurs montrent qu’ils continueront à appeler à des manifestations.

Cela montre une fois de plus le pouvoir des agriculteurs qui cherchent à être politiquement actifs et à faire entendre leur voix.

Les manifestations des agriculteurs néerlandais contre les règles strictes en matière d’émissions d’oxyde nitreux, dans le cadre desquelles le gouvernement néerlandais cherchait à racheter un grand nombre d’éleveurs de bétail dans le pays, en sont un autre exemple. La plupart des agriculteurs ont clairement fait savoir aux responsables politiques de La Haye qu’ils tenaient à leur profession et qu’ils ne voulaient pas être considérés comme un problème à résoudre par leur propre gouvernement. En fin de compte, un parti d’agriculteurs a remporté les élections provinciales aux Pays-Bas, bloquant ainsi l’agenda du gouvernement qui devait permettre la mise en oeuvre du programme de rachat.

L’agriculture a également représenté un enjeu important lors des récentes élections législatives, au cours desquelles le Premier ministre Mark Rutte et son parti ont été évincés et relégués à une position moins importante dans la politique néerlandaise.

En politique européenne, la règle est la suivante : si l’on agit à l’encontre des intérêts des agriculteurs, on est condamné à perdre. Les hommes politiques de Berlin peuvent penser qu’ils ont changé de cap avant qu’ils ne puissent s’en rendre compte, mais il sera bien trop tard pour leur réputation politique lors des prochaines élections.

Originally published here

This Is Not the Time for a Shortage of Healthcare Workers

Winter is a busy time for impromptu hospital visits, whether from slipping on icy sidewalks or throwing out one’s back while shoveling snow. Then there’s the winter crud, which this year is particularly virulent. The CDC has reported that hospitalizations are up for influenza by 51 percent, 200 percent for COVID-19, and a 60 percent jump in RSV infections. Unfortunately, a shortage of nurses and other skilled healthcare workers could mean longer patient wait times.

The healthcare industry nationwide is in the thick of what is now termed the “Great Resignation.” Nearly half of American healthcare workers actively seek alternative employment opportunities, leaving patients with reduced access to healthcare providers and increased costs for services.

Because of this shortage of skilled healthcare workers, patients endure longer wait times in emergency rooms and urgent-care facilities and for crucial services like imaging, labs, exams, and routine or surgical procedures.

Patients deserve prompt access to quality care without delays in matters as critical as health and well-being. No one should have to endure long wait times at a medical facility.

We need more skilled healthcare workers throughout the United States. Still, we can’t sit on our hands and wait for the next generation of students to graduate and enter the workforce. Instead, America needs to tap into a global pool of skilled workers eager to contribute their talents immediately.

Unfortunately, bureaucratic hurdles in the form of visa labor caps exacerbate the labor deficit. Adding to the complexity is retrogression, a process that causes delays in visa processing as the annual visa limit approaches. These barriers make it increasingly difficult to fulfill America’s labor demand, ultimately leaving consumers feeling the pinch.

The crux of the issue lies in the caps and quotas imposed on employment-based visas for international skilled workers. These visa quotas have seen minimal adjustments to accommodate the modern economy, which has more than tripled in size since the quotas were created in 1990. The annual visa cap is set at 140,000, yet the unused employment-based visas reached 65,000 by the end of fiscal year 2021 due to processing capacity constraints. This problem has compounded, with 4.5 million unused employment-based visas since 1922.

The complexity of the system and the financial burdens associated with securing an employment-based visa add immensely to the challenges of entry. The complex application and approval process alone can take up to three years, and capacity constraints at Citizenship and Immigration Services create application backlogs and additional delays.

Countries such as the Philippines, with a significant population of nurses seeking to alleviate the healthcare shortage in the United States, experience lengthy wait times and high costs for their applications.

To address the repercussions patients face from labor shortages, the country must substantially increase the number of visas to at least 420,000 granted to skilled workers willing to help fill the gap. This move would be a boon for the healthcare industry and, most important, patients nationwide.

Unclaimed visas from previous years should be leveraged to bridge the gap quickly, ensuring that future labor shortages do not negatively affect American consumers. This would also help deter retrogression and eliminate unnecessary barriers. Politically, allowing unused visas to be rolled over and used to fill critical gaps could have bipartisan support. Economically, it alleviates labor market shortfalls and rewards migrants seeking to migrate via legal channels.

Patients need the gift of care. Policymakers have the power to give it by initiating visa labor cap reform. This would ensure that Americans spend less time in waiting rooms.

Originally published here

Vermont can’t afford to import prohibitionist policies on flavored vapes

Banning products will not make them go away. It will only create incentives for illicit markets to offer them to adult or high school students alike.

In 2013, Vermont became a New England leader by loosening its laws on cannabis possession, making it the first to do so by a legislative vote. 

Reporting on these events for Vermont Watchdog, I noted how this move was praised by many social justice advocates after years of abuse of narcotics of all types, and the recognition by then-Gov. Peter Shumlin and lawmakers that prohibition was not an answer.

Now, a decade later, Vermont has a thriving cannabis industry that is both legal and safe, offering jobs and removing the stigma of both patients and consumers who want to responsibly enjoy cannabis.

On another front, while prohibition has fallen by the wayside for cannabis, state lawmakers are entertaining another kind of prohibition on flavors for adult vapers. Modeled after similar efforts in Massachusetts, S.18, which passed the Vermont Senate earlier this year, would outlaw any legal vaping products available in flavors like mint or menthol. 

Though earlier testimony has focused on the availability of such products to underage youth, it would be counterfactual for Vermont to install a flavor ban aimed at adults — presumably in order to deprive minors from accessing these products — while maintaining a legal regime for cannabis, which comes with its own risks for young adults.

The fact remains that vaping devices — much like cannabis products — are not available to anyone under 21 years of age. Completely cutting off adults who would like to switch away from traditional cigarettes by using more attractive and less harmful flavored vaping devices would be a ruinous policy that would only cause more harm.

There are an estimated 16% of Vermonters who are daily smokers. As a good measure of faith, why not incentivize these individuals to switch to less harmful nicotine alternatives? If the only nicotine alternatives available to adults who want to quit smoking are tobacco-flavored, how would this be any real incentive?

Banning products will not make them go away. It will only create incentives for illicit markets

to offer them to adult or high school students alike, without regard for a safe and legal system that exists for a similar product like cannabis.

If state legislators want to make an impact and reduce smoking, the best course of action is to offer adults a regulated and safe market of flavored vaping products, while maintaining a policy of zero-tolerance for any retail shop or convenience store that sells to youth. Whether that be stiffer penalties or loss of licenses, there can be no acceptance of young people gaining access to these products. Hence, we should view this as an appropriate issue of age-gating products, much like we do for alcohol, cannabis and other goods.

With adequate checks and administration, Vermont adults deserve a system where they can legally acquire their flavored vaping products, rather than stoop to using the black market either in-state or across the Vermont border. That is a certain way to provide greater consumer choice, uphold the rule of law, and ensure that kids will not have access to these products.

Originally published here

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