February 6, 2023
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Panama’s maritime authority is taking steps to prevent First Quantum Minerals Ltd. from exporting copper out of the country, and the Canadian miner is now facing the prospect of shutting down its Cobre Panama mine by mid-month.

First Quantum FM-T said that Panama has issued a resolution requiring the company to suspend copper concentrate loading at the Punta Rincón port.

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The argument that Ottawa needs to adopt a serious fiscal anchor is hardly a new one. But the events of the past few years have made it increasingly urgent.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, economic critics urged the federal government to set stricter limits for itself around spending, deficits and debt, to embed firmer fiscal discipline into the entire process. Instead, the government preferred to talk about general goals to reduce deficits and debt burdens, calling those its “fiscal anchor,” while ducking calls to adopt the kinds of hard boundaries that would truly ground its budgets.

But the fallout from the COVID-19 economic crisis has left the government shouldering much higher debts and much higher interest rates. The federal ratio of debt to gross domestic product, the gauge that the government has pledged to lower “over the medium term” without setting any specific targets, sits at about 42 per cent, up from 31 per cent prior to the pandemic. The government has projected that annual interest costs on debt as a share of revenue – an important measure for fiscal sustainability in past periods of high interest rates – are headed to 9.4 per cent in the 2023-24 budget year, up from about 7 per cent in pre-COVID years.

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