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What we believe about a place can often be more powerful than the hard facts. A country's reputation can influence everything from foreign policy to foreign investment – to whether or not people want to visit or live there.
One recent study by the Reputation Institute, a consultant and advisory firm specializing in reputation, sought to quantify the idea of the most well-thought-of countries. They measured 16 different factors – including being a beautiful and safe place to visit, and having friendly and welcoming residents, progressive policies and an effective government – via an online survey with more than 48,000 residents in the G8 countries, representing the world’s eight leading industrialized nations. The 55 countries rated as part of the survey include those with the largest GDPs, largest populations, and countries with relevant events.
To find out if the reputation matched up to the facts, we talked to residents and expats living in the top five reputable countries.
Newly ranked as the most reputable country in the world (knocking out Canada), Sweden hits all the marks of being safe, welcoming and beautiful, according to its residents. The county is also unique in Western Europe, having been spared from much of the impact of World War II and remaining neutral today.
"Swedes seem to be happy with this independent status, while at the same time being one of the most welcoming countries for refugees in all of Europe," said Dr Ernest Adams, an American-born British citizen who lives in Sweden part time as a consultant and a senior lecturer at Uppsala University. "This is a virtue they have had for a long time – they saved almost all of Denmark's Jews during the war."
Most expats live in Stockholm where the business and government hubs are located. English is commonly spoken, though some expats initially feel that residents can be standoffish.
"But after being here a while, you begin to realise that people like to keep themselves to themselves and they afford that respect to others too, for better or worse," said Kat Trigarszky, current resident and author of an An English Mamma in Stockholm. "It's quite usual not to know your neighbours at all well."
Entertainment and luxury items can be quite expensive in the city (VAT is 25%, and residents regularly complain about the high price of alcohol, which averages around 130 krona a cocktail). Still, many Swedes cook at home, and save on car costs by using the country's vast and affordable public transportation network.
Despite dropping to second on the list, Canadians speak more positively than ever about their home country, especially as the government continues an "arms wide open" approach to Syrian refugees.
"There's a national concern to ensure that those who have suffered so much can rebuild the lives they deserve," said Jeremy Arnold, a native and frequent Quora author on life in Canada. "The average Canadian is defined by their zeal to see our inclusive and communal way of life protected. We love seeing the videos of Syrian immigrants enjoying their first Canada Day."
Canada also scores high for being one of the world’s safest countries. That doesn't mean it's without its problems. "It isn't a utopia. We have crime. We have gangs," Arnold explained. "But we also have a strong social safety net and a shared commitment to values like mutual respect and joyful multiculturalism."
Almost all Canadian residents live in cities that are within 100 miles of the US border, making it especially easy for American expats to come and go. "We also have fairly open visa policies for member countries of the Commonwealth of Nations," Arnold said. Vancouver and Toronto are perennial favourite expat spots, but many choose to live near friends and family or where previous generations of a country's expats have settled.
While both Vancouver and Toronto are expensive cities relative to world prices, Canada in general is relatively affordable compared to many other developed countries. Even the big cities can be navigated affordably by living a little further away from main amenities, said Arnold.
While natural beauty may be a matter of luck, factors like friendly residents and progressive policies come down to a country's wealth and culture, both of which Switzerland has in spades, explained Jason Li, who lived in Switzerland for three years and now lives in Canberra, Australia.
"It’s needless to say that Switzerland is a wealthy country. It has a long tradition of organized hospitality ever since the days of the grand tours of the English aristocracy and Thomas Cook’s first organized tours of the country in 1841," he said. "Twenty percent of Swiss residents are expats, and tourism is a significant industry, so those who work in hospitality and tourism are accustomed to dealing with foreigners."
While many expats end up in business centres like Geneva, Basel and Zurich, Li found himself partial to Lausanne, located in 60km east of Geneva.
"Unlike Zurich or Geneva, it is university town that is not dominated by industry," said Li. "Students from UNIL [Université de Lausanne] and EPFL [École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne] provide the energy and thrust, and it has one of the best nightlife scenes in Switzerland."
Despite Zurich being consistently ranked as one of the world's most expensive countries, residents who enjoy a Swiss salary find it manageable, since there is rent control and universal healthcare.
The land down under is loved by residents for its feelings of safety, security and peacefulness, driven in some part by the country's stance on firearms.
"Australia banned guns few decades back, which means that gun violence is minimal," said Ganesh Krishnan, originally from India who currently lives in Melbourne. "Here in Melbourne we can be assured that we can walk free of fear anytime, night or day, on the streets."
Retired US Navy sailor Pedro Vasquez feels similarly from his three years stationed in Canberra, praising the illegality of firearms. "This is very important to me because as someone that values life, I do not want to put mine at risk," he said. "I also like that Australians care so much about the environment and about animal welfare. Of course, it helps that Australians are such a friendly bunch."
Melbourne has been ranked as one of the world's most liveable cities, largely due to its extensive public transportation system that covers the city and much of the suburbs. Family-friendly Perth and economic hub Sydney also typically top the list of cities that attract expats from around the world.
The country tends to be very affordable to live, with universal and high-quality health care and government-funded tertiary education.
As a safe and scenic country, Norway more than lives up to its reputation according to residents.
"The prejudices about Norway are all true: the people are beautiful, gender equality is anchored in daily life and the natural scenery is breathtaking," said Barbara Schwendtner, an Oslo resident from Austria, and a guide for Your Local Cousin, a travel startup that matches travellers with locals. Norway is also a rich country, and is both investing oil money in development and saving in funds for future generations.
Expats also fit in here easily; residents don't really distinguish between locals and those who've moved from abroad. Most residents choose to live in Oslo, which is not a very big city, so activities usually congregate around the city centre.
No matter where they live, Norwegians spend plenty of time in the fresh air. "Norwegians are crazy about the outdoors!" Schwendtner said."They love to be outside, go cross-country skiing in winter and hiking in summer. The activity level of the population is extremely high, with gym memberships often offered to employees."
That love for the outdoors can be a good thing, especially as other activities can be quite expensive. "While one can dine out several times a week in other countries, the same lifestyle is certainly not recommended in Norway," Schwendtner said. "Naturally, people try to find leisure activities for less money, such as training or enjoying nature."
Analysts from the Wall Street bank Goldman Sachs have downgraded their prediction for US and European stocks for the next three months. They expect a reversal of investor positioning and say further growth requires a better economic environment.
Goldman expects the S&P 500 and the STOXX Europe 600 to contract about 10 percent over the period.
"Given equities remain expensive and earnings growth is poor, in our view equities are now just at the upper end of their 'fat and flat' range," said the analysts.
The downgrade follows a recent rally in risk assets, driven by both light positioning into the Brexit vote and a search for yield, according to the bank.
“Our risk appetite indicator is near neutral levels and its positive momentum has faded, suggesting positioning will give less support and we will need better macro fundamentals or stimulus to keep the risk rally going. But market expectations are already dovish, and growth pick-up should take time,” they added.
Goldman Sachs is downgrading stocks to 'underweight' for the next three months, but keeping a 'neutral' position in the next year, staying 'overweight' in cash.
On Friday, the S&P 500 touched an all-time high of 2,177.09. This happens at a time, when the US economy grew 1.2 percent in the first half of the year, well below the predicted 2.5-2.6 percent growth.
According to Jeffrey Gundlach, the CEO of DoubleLine Capital, this means the market has become overly complacent.
“The artist Christopher Wool has a word painting, 'Sell the house, sell the car, sell the kids.' That's exactly how I feel sell everything. Nothing here looks good. The stock markets should be down massively but investors seem to have been hypnotized that nothing can go wrong,” Gundlach told CNBC on Friday. His DoubleLine Capital is keeping money in gold and gold miner assets, the traditional safe haven for investors.
Ulaanbaatar /MONTSAME/ Talkh Chikher Co.Ltd. (MSE:TSK) presented to the public its financial report for the first half of 2016, on August 1. The Company leaders noted that the main focus of 2016 has been the excellence of quality and hygiene standards, and that the Company renewed packages of its products.
The management team is maintaining the ISO 9001:2000 quality system in their operations, and has launched a campaign to adopt the ISE 14000 (HACCP) system. Major investment and developments are being conducted for extension of factory, overhaul storage, and the commissioning of a certified laboratory.
Although the net profit has been reduced in the first half of this year due to the general decline in the economy, the scope of sales has expanded, having increased the local distributions by twofold. The management team has also been working on exporting its products.
A Nigerian man alleged to be the mastermind behind an international crime ring that swindled individuals and companies out of $60 million has been arrested.
According to a statement by Interpol, the man, known only as 'Mike,' ran an international criminal network that hacked the email accounts of small and medium-sized businesses across the globe.
Once the scammers had control of the accounts, they sent fake payment requests to the company's partners and then diverted the funds to accounts they controlled.
One victim was conned into paying $15.4 million, Interpol said.
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In another scam, the ring would hack an executive's email account, and then send a wire fund transfer request to the company employee authorized to handle them. The funds were then paid into the criminal's bank account, Interpol said.
A 38-year-old person was also arrested by the Nigerian authorities.
Both individuals are facing charges including hacking, conspiracy and obtaining money under false pretenses.
The arrest was a joint operation between Interpol and the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC).
The businesses affected were in countries including Australia, Canada, India, Malaysia, Romania, South Africa, Thailand and the U.S., the statement said.
The alleged mastermind headed a network of at least 40 individuals across Nigeria, Malaysia and South Africa who provided the malware and helped carry out the scams, Interpol said. The gang also had money-laundering contacts in China, Europe and the U.S. who provided bank accounts to receive the illicit cash.
Following his June arrest in southern Nigeria's Port Harcourt, a forensic examination of devices seized by the EFCC showed Mike had been involved in a range of criminal activities including romance scams.
TOKYO -- Nippon Express will work with e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding to ship Japanese goods to China for around 30% less than current prevailing rates.
The Japanese shipper will transport goods from companies doing business on Alibaba's TMall.com platform to China, while an Alibaba affiliate will handle home delivery. Goods can either be flown across the sea when ordered or shipped by surface in advance and stored in warehouses.
Nippon Express is Japan's largest business-to-business and international shipper, enabling it to hold down costs by purchasing space on ships and aircraft in bulk. In teaming up with TMall, which controls 60% of China's online retail market, the shipper aims to handle half of all online purchases headed there from Japan.
Currently, Japan Post ships 90% of online purchases traveling to China via airmail with its express-mail service. But a fee hike of around 30% in June to 1,400 yen ($13.68) for packages up to 500 grams has raised headwinds to the service's use. Nippon Express will keep fees for similar items around 1,000 yen, aiming to pick up customers put off by the increase. Both services take four to six days for delivery in China.
Nippon Express and Alibaba will also take on the complex business of dealing with customs for companies on TMall. China updated rules on cross-border e-commerce in April and now requires such information as what is being shipped, prices and logistics to be submitted electronically. Nippon Express will be the first Japanese logistics company to create a digital link with Alibaba allowing this data to be combined and submitted in one neat package.
China's cross-border e-commerce retail market is expected to grow roughly twelvefold from 2014 levels to $245 billion in 2020, according to U.S. professional services company Accenture.
A number of Japanese companies are competing to offer better and cheaper shipping options to China, creating new chances for even smaller businesses here to access that enormous market. Yamato Holdings inked a partnership in April with companies including JD.com, TMall's smaller rival, to offer international shipping and home delivery. ANA Holdings plans to offer a service handling everything from customs procedures to delivery starting in September.
Such Japanese products as cosmetics and household goods have gained a sterling reputation for safety and quality in China. Consumers there are on track to buy 2.33 trillion yen ($22.8 billion) in goods from Japan online in 2019, according to the Japanese trade ministry. This is roughly triple the 2015 level.
E-commerce is growing more important to Japanese companies as a source of continuous demand from China. This stands in contrast to consumption by Chinese tourists in Japan, who have been spending less per capita of late.
TOKYO -- Huge changes sweeping the auto industry -- from the development of driverless cars to the ride-sharing boom -- are forcing carmakers to compete not only against themselves but, increasingly, with tech companies.
Even a giant like Toyota Motor is feeling the heat. The Japanese automaker has been in talks with Google, the U.S. search powerhouse, on and off for about five years now. They are said to be discussing data terminals to be fitted in Toyota cars, among other things.
"They want data but we can't let them cross that line," a Toyota official said. A 21st-century version of the titanic tie-up seen between Toyota and General Motors of the U.S. back in the early 1980s has yet to materialize.
Connectivity is key
The increasingly overlapping interests of the auto and information technology industries is a reflection of the structural changes occurring in carmaking.
"In addition to driving, turning and stopping, 'connecting' will be [a basic] function" of an automobile, Toyota President Akio Toyoda has been quoted as saying. With semiconductors becoming ever more advanced and cheaper to produce, efforts to use them as a data-gathering tool for cars are in full swing. For Google, which wants to create new services by collecting a huge assortment of information, the idea of accessing the vast data provided by Toyota cars is attractive.
"If we had data on the status of windshield wipers on all vehicles, we could understand detailed weather conditions in different places," said a Toyota employee while sifting through information collected by sensors that come standard in its passenger vehicles in Japan and the U.S. Another employee mentioned how a sensor has picked up a long line forming at a recently opened shop. That kind of data collection, if applied to tens of millions of Toyota cars across the world, could spur the creation of countless new businesses.
"In five or 10 years, we may end up being a different company," said Toyota Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada. As a company that started out as a maker of textile machines about 90 years ago, Toyota knows a thing or two about change.
Toyota has propelled itself to the top of the automaking pyramid with the help of what are essentially low-tech techniques, such as the kaizen strategy of continuous improvement, and the suriawase method of integration and coordination among parts from different manufacturers. But it may have to radically transform itself if it wants to thrive in the new era.
Toyota is not wasting any time trying to adapt. Last November, it set up a fund with Sumitomo Mitsui Banking and others to invest in new technologies. Two months later, it launched a subsidiary in Silicon Valley to study artificial intelligence because it "couldn't find the necessary talent in Japan," Uchiyamada explained. Toyota's go-it-alone mentality is fading fast, it seems.
US taxi service Uber has sold its business in China to the dominant ride-hailing service in the country Didi Chuxing. The $35 billion deal will end heated competition between the two firms.
Under the terms of the merger, Didi will make a $1 billion investment in San Francisco-based Uber which operates globally outside China. Uber China's investors will get a 20 percent stake in the new company, AFP cited Didi statement.
Didi CEO Cheng Wei said the two companies "have learned a great deal from each other over the past two years in China’s burgeoning new economy."
“Uber and Didi Chuxing are investing billions of dollars in China, and both companies have yet to turn a profit there,” Travis Kalanick, chief executive officer of Uber, wrote in a blog post obtained by Bloomberg. “Getting to profitability is the only way to build a sustainable business that can best serve Chinese riders, drivers and cities over the long-term,” he added.
Uber has been struggling to gain a foothold in China. The company said it was losing more than $1 billion a year in the country.
Didi and Uber China have been in a battle to attract global investment. In June, Didi closed a $7.3 billion financing round that included investment from the US technology giant Apple and the world’s largest e-commerce platform Alibaba.
Uber raised $3.5 billion from the investment arm of Saudi Arabia as part of a financing round of more than $5 billion.
Didi Chuxing, previously known as Didi Kuaidi, works with more than 14 million drivers in about 400 Chinese cities, and has 300 million users who place 11 million ride orders a day. According to the company, which claims to have 87 percent of the Chinese market, it completed 1.4 billion rides in 2015.
Didi has already agreed to work with other online taxi services, including US’s Lyft, India’s Ola and Southeast Asia’s Grab.
Sri Lanka has a debt problem. After more than a decade of taking out huge loans to build large-scale infrastructure — most of which hasn’t yet produced adequate returns — the country is now struggling to make payments, and is looking for another way out.
A potential exit strategy was to offer China debt for equity swaps, which Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe recently proposed to China’s Ambassador Yi Xianliang. China was offered varying degrees of control over some of Sri Lanka’s biggest infrastructure projects, including Mattala International Airport and portions of the Hambantota deep sea port, and Sri Lanka would receive some debt relief.
China’s response to this offer was publicized earlier today in Colombo’s Sunday Times: We’re not interested. The Chinese ambassador replied that “it was not possible according to China’s laws.”
However, China was clear that it extends its “fullest cooperation” and that such deals should be conducted via investors on proper commercial terms.
This point is key: while China’s government will not swap debt for equity they will help clear the road for Chinese companies to take over key projects in Sri Lanka. IZP, a Chinese informational technology company, has been put forward as a potential purchaser of Mattala International Airport, while COSCO is looking into expanding operations at the Hambantota deep sea port.
The problem, both for Sri Lanka and for any would-be investor, is that many of the large projects in question are losing money fast, and may ultimately prove to be economically unsustainable — at least without a massive amount of additional investment, more infrastructure, and a miracle or two. With just two flights per day, Mattala International is more than likely the most underused international airport on the planet and the Hambantota port is also running at severe under-capacity, while the brand new and fully modern highways that run through this region are mostly devoid of vehicles.
However, not all hope is lost for these projects — yet. Although China declined a debt for equity swap, their participation in Sri Lanka’s infrastructure development is more than likely just getting started. Colombo Port City has been green-lighted once again and just last week China requested 15,000 acres of land in Hambantota for the building of a massive, million worker special economic zone. The latter seems to run flush with the original Hambantota idea:
“If you’re going to have a bulk port you need to have industry around the bulk port to take advantage of it,” said Deshal de Mel, a senior economist at Hayleys Plc in Colombo. “That is where the whole idea comes from; that we’ll have industry coming in to kind of match up to the port. So the shipping port can still be made to work if they can get the right industries to invest in it.”
Sri Lanka’s debt situation is severe. The country is currently in $58.3 billion deep to foreign financiers, and 95.4% of all government revenue is currently going towards paying back its loans. This means that out of every hundred dollars the government brings in only $4.60 is going towards essentials like education and public services.
Beyond China, Sri Lanka has called for proposals from investors worldwide who may interested in taking on their Hambantota projects, just in case you’re looking for a challenge....