WatchA third of Canadians would struggle if mortgage rate grew by only

TORONTO — A survey by Manulife Bank of Canada says nearly half of Canadian homeowners are taking steps to whittle down their mortgage debt, but many would be in trouble if their monthly payments grew even slightly.[np_storybar title=”‘A great rate for a bad mortgage’: The 10-year mortgage is near an all-time low, but is it a good idea?” link=””%5DIt’s the lowest 10-year mortgage in the land but even the people offering the product tell you to stay clear. Read on [/np_storybar]Manulife says 18 per cent of homeowners made extra lump-sum payments towards their mortgages in the past year, while 17 per cent increased their regular payments. Another five per cent of respondents did both.In total, 40 per cent of the homeowners polled made extra mortgage payments during the past year, while 60 per cent did not.The average amount of additional mortgage payments was $6,300.Manulife Bank of Canada’s president and CEO Rick Lunny said it’s encouraging that many homeowners are taking steps to reduce their mortgage debt.However, the survey also found that more than a third of homeowners polled would face financial hardship if their mortgage payments increased by just 10 per cent.Canada’s household debt ratio declines as wealth hits new highsBank of Canada says household debt, housing price crash remain major concern for economyYou may not need to panic about million-dollar homes — even in Toronto and Vancouver“Having your payments go up 10 per cent sounds like a lot, but if you have a $200,000 mortgage and interest rates go up one per cent, that’s a 10 per cent increase in your mortgage payments,” Lunny said. “So there’s not much room here for those people.”Meanwhile, another 15 per cent of homeowners said they couldn’t handle any increases at all in their mortgage payments.“It’s inevitable that interest rates will go up, because they’re at historical lows and have been for some time,” Lunny said.However, Lunny noted that 79 per cent of those polled said they would be willing to cut back on discretionary spending, such as eating out, in order to get out of debt — an indication that there is more wiggle room in their budgets than they may realize.“These people probably, better than they think, would have the ability to make their mortgage payments, but it would have an impact on their lifestyle,” Lunny said.Manulife polled 2,372 Canadian homeowners in all provinces between Feb. 10 and 27. Respondents were all between the ages of 20 and 59 and had a minimum household income of $50,000.The polling industry’s professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.The Manulife survey found that Canadian homeowners are carrying an average of $190,000 in mortgage debt, with Albertans carrying the heaviest debt load — an average of $242,300. That’s followed by $217,300 in British Columbia, $196,900 in Manitoba and Saskatchewan and $193,000 in Ontario.Atlantic Canada has the lowest average mortgage debt, at $127,300. read more

Landlocked developing nations still face unique challenges UN forum told

United Nations representatives and senior government officials from landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) in Europe, Asia and the Pacific are meeting in Vientiane, Laos, to discuss how to fully participate in global trade and overcome isolation from world markets and other socio-economic consequences of not having access to a sea.“The challenge before many LLDCs is to secure a sustained positive economic growth that delivers decent jobs and enables countries to make significant strides towards poverty reduction and broad based sustainable development,” said the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), LLDCs and Small Island Developing States, Gyan Chandra Acharya.The three-day conference, which started today, features representatives from 12 LLDCs in Asia and the Pacific – Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bhutan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Mongolia, Nepal, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – and two in Europe – the Republic of Moldova and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.Participants are conducting the final regional ten-year review of the Almaty Programme of Action, a framework for cooperation between the landlocked and the transit access developing countries – nations that have often been at odds due to their geographic configuration.The plan reinforces the right of all countries to enjoy secure access to the sea and establishes a set of policy guidelines for reducing red tape for landlocked country exports, while also respecting the prerogatives of the access nations.It also sets the stage for strengthened national economies and greater convergence of national interests by cementing international and national commitment to upgrade rail, road, air and pipeline infrastructure in both the landlocked and the access countries.“Despite many challenges faced by LLDCs, I am optimistic. With the support and cooperation of transit countries and international community at large, LLDCs of the region not only can realize their full development potential, but can also play an important role as landbridges,” the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Noeleen Heyzer, said in her opening statement.The meeting seeks to identify policy recommendations and actions in four priority areas – transit policy issues; infrastructure development and maintenance; trade facilitation and market access; and international support measures. The decisions will be discussed at a meeting later this month, and then at the Ten-Year Review Conference of the Almaty Programme of Action in 2014.In addition, the ideas presented this week are likely to guide priorities for the global development agenda beyond 2015, the deadline for achieving the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).A recently launched ESCAP-World Bank trade cost database shows that trade costs of LLDCs are still extremely high, typically four to seven times higher than those of most other middle-income developing countries in Asia largely due to constraints they face due to their lack of access to sea.Included on the agenda for this week is transport infrastructure development. Discussions this week are expected to include upgrades to the Asian Highway and the Trans-Asian Railway networks to better connect ports.Also up for discussion is membership to the World Trade Organization (WTO). In the past decade, only four LLDCs became members of WTO, with six others currently undergoing the process. Ms. Heyzer urged the international community to facilitate this membership on “easy and expedited” terms. read more