Items filtered by date: Tuesday, 08 October 2019

Governor Udom Emmanuel has presented a budget proposal of N597, 800billion for the 2020 fiscal year to Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly.

A breakdown of the budget estimate as presented at the chambers of the state assembly in Uyo on Wednesday indicates that capital expenditure has N369, 642b, recurrent expenditure is estimated to take N111,225b, while N116,933 has been estimated for consolidated revenue fund charges.

The 2020 budget which indicates a shortfall from the 2019 budget with its approved provision of N672,985, is according to the governor,predicated on an oil benchmark of $55 per barrel at a production rate of N2.18 million barrels per day, and with an estimated exchange rate of 305/USS, in line with the national budget benchmark projection.

Mr Emmanuel said the 2020 budget christened “A budget of industralization for poverty alleviation Phase II” has a total projected revenue estimated of N381,556b as against the approved provision of N374,758b for 2019.

A breakdown of this further indicates that Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) -N52.556 billion, Statutory Allocation – N 52.000 billion,.Derivation Fund -N255.000 billion, Retained Revenue from Parastatals -N2.000 billion, Value Added Tax (VAT) -N 20.000 billion, total.- N381.556 billion
Emmanuel said the 2020 budget is further anchored on his Eight-Point policy thrust which rests squarely on his initial Five-Point Agenda that shaped his First Term in office to wit; Job Creation, Poverty Alleviation, Wealth Creation, Economic and Political Inclusion, and Infrastructural Consolidation and Expansion for continuous transformation of the State into an industrialized entity.”

“We are committed to complete all our ongoing projects and other star projects in our completion agenda”, he assured.

The Speaker, Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Mr Aniekan Bassey applauded governor Udom Emmanuel for the purposeful implementation of the 2019 budget and pledged to ensure a speedy consideration and passage of the 2020 appropriation budget.

He however charged the various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDGs) to ensure they provide all the necessary supporting budget data and stick to the time table that will be announced by the house for their appearance.

On his part, the leader of the state Assembly Udo Kierian Akpan said the Governor has been able to bring about accountability in governance and promised that he and his colleagues will continue to support his efforts in service.

Published in News Economy

In the past few weeks there have been unofficial reports that some people in Tanzania, including one in Dar es Salaam, had died of what was suspected to be Ebola virus disease. As we know, there is an ongoing outbreak in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in which thousands have died.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has criticised Tanzania for failing to provide details about suspected cases of Ebola in the country. While Tanzania insisted it had no confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola, it did not directly address the case of the woman mentioned by the WHO and provided no further information.

The reports are a cause for concern because they followed earlier cross-border Ebola cases and fatalities in neighbouring Uganda which were clearly linked to the DRC outbreak. The ongoing concern is that the disease might spread in the region, and potentially even globally.

The DRC outbreak was declared a global public health emergency in July and regional countries were advised to proactively monitor the situation and report any suspected cases of Ebola.

The cases in Tanzania, if confirmed, are also highly likely to be related to the ongoing outbreak in the DRC.

What is different and a departure from international norms in Tanzania’s case is the lack of transparency, and information sharing. No clinical data, investigation results, contact tracing and laboratory tests performed have been shared by the government.

Why the government has taken this route is unclear and some observers are alleging a cover-up in which for whatever reason, the authorities in Tanzania seem deliberate about not providing the information that have been requested for by WHO. Fear and concerns among international travellers are spreading fast.

One possible explanation might be that the government is reluctant to give out details for fear of alarming the public and the international community. Providing information could spread panic while also affecting international travel, tourism and business.

The problem with this thinking is that it means missing the opportunity to contain the outbreak before more people are exposed. When this happens, a much better response is needed. And panic, as well as travel and business disruptions, may end up being even greater.

Why information matters

The importance of sharing information cannot be over-estimated. Ebola can spread at a phenomenal speed – as was shown in the 2014-2016 outbreak in West Africa. The only way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to provide information to the public, stakeholders, put service providers on high alert, provide necessary suppliers, and ensure a functional laboratory capacity is in place. Those who have come in contact with people who have contracted the virus need to be isolated while the infected need supportive care.

Getting all stakeholders on board lessens the burden of containing an outbreak. For example, in Ebola outbreak situations we have seen before, the WHO is often willing and ready to provide technical capacity where these are lacking. These include personnel, laboratory and supplies. No such requests have been made in this case.

The WHO provides extensive guidance on a range of issues. These include definitions of suspected Ebola virus disease cases, setting up surveillance systems, contact tracing, infection prevention among health care providers and handling deaths. Under the International Health Regulations, Ebola is classified as a notifiable disease. This means that countries are obligated to report suspected and confirmed Ebola cases.

The first action on any suspected case of Ebola is to isolate the person and to provide supportive treatment. At this stage, samples are taken to a reference laboratory for testing. The next step is to trace all the people with whom the person had contact with and to try and establish whether they are showing symptoms or not.

Most of the outbreaks that have caused lots of infections and deaths have been as a result of a poor response in identifying and isolated early cases. For example in Guinea it took about three months to establish Ebola as the cause of the epidemic. This usually happens where health systems are weak, as was the case with the west Africa outbreak and in the DRC. Insecurity is an additional layer to the challenges of containing the outbreak in the DRC.

The Ebola virus is transmitted through body fluids. Risk of exposure is high in particular settings. These include health facilities such as laboratories, during burial rituals involving the washing of corpses, and other intimate acts such having sex with an infected person. The web or network of exposed people can grow quickly from one case if steps aren’t taken early on to avoid further onward transmission.

Research has shown that the number of new cases generated from a single case in the absence of control measures can be as high as two. Given the relatively short incubation period of two to 21 days, several new cases can develop and a full blown outbreak may manifest.

Next steps

In the event that Ebola cases are confirmed in Tanzania, the logical thing to do is to act fast to stem further spread. Isolation of infected people and their contacts is critical.

New vaccines are being tried in the DRC and Uganda especially among front line health workers who are more likely exposed to virus through attending to patients. This could also be considered to protect those at the highest risk of exposure.

The WHO and other UN agencies discourage countries from imposing travel bans. The WHO argues that travel bans are detrimental and ineffective in the control of Ebola outbreaks. Nevertheless, there is usually nervousness among potential travellers which ultimately affects businesses and normal life.The Conversation

 

Abdhalah Ziraba, Associate Research Scientist, African Population and Health Research Center

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Published in Opinion & Analysis
Congress’s impeachment investigation into U.S. President Donald Trump turns on Tuesday to the U.S. ambassador to the EU and the role he may have played in trying to get Ukraine to probe Trump’s political rival, Joseph Biden.
 
Gordon Sondland, who donated one million dollars to the Republican president’s inauguration committee, will meet behind closed doors with a staff of three Democratic-led House committees.
 
The impeachment probe is focusing on a whistleblower’s allegations that Trump leveraged nearly 400 million dollars in aid to secure a promise from Ukraine’s president to investigate former vice president Biden and his son Hunter, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.
 
The House of Representatives Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, and Oversight Committees staff are expected to ask Sondland to explain why he became involved in dealings with Ukraine, which is not a member of the EU.
 
Sondland was a Seattle-based hotelier until Trump nominated him to his position as ambassador in May. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in June and presented his credentials at the European Commission in July.
 
According to text messages released by House committee leaders last week, Sondland was heavily involved in contacts with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy as he sought a meeting with Trump.
 
Ukrainian officials expressed concern at the administration’s decision to block nearly 400 million dollars in U.S. military assistance for Kiev.
 
In one of the texts, for example, Sondland emphasized that Trump “really wants the deliverable.”
 
Charges that Trump pressured Zelenskiy in a July 25 telephone call to investigate Biden, a leading rival in Trump’s 2020 re-election bid, while withholding the military aid, helped prompt House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi to announce a formal impeachment investigation last month.
 
Trump has denied wrongdoing.
 
The impeachment investigation could lead to the approval by the House of formal charges against Trump.
 
A trial on whether to remove him from office would then be held in the Republican-controlled Senate, where Trump continues to enjoy nearly unwavering support from members of his party.
Published in World
Paleontologists announced on Tuesday in Beijing they had discovered a group of 100 million-year-old fossils of dinosaur footprints in east China’s Zhejiang Province.
 
According to Xing Lida, an associate professor with the China University of Geosciences, Beijing, over 20 footprints, ranging from 22.7 cm to 82 cm in length, were discovered in a village in the city of Lanxi.
 
However, experts estimated the dinosaurs’ body length ranged from 3.8 to 14 metres.
 
The footprints were believed to date back 100 million years to Cretaceous Period, indicating a large number of sauropods were active in the area, believed to be rich in water and grass at that time.
 
Experts said there would have been carnivorous dinosaurs in symbiosis with these herbivorous dinosaurs, but no evidence had been found so far.
 
Lida and Martin Lockley, a professor at the University of Colorado, was among the authors of the study, which was published in Historical Biology. Paleontologists are now working with local authorities to better protect these rare footprints.
Published in Travel & Tourism

The Nigerian Stock exchange continues its bearish trend in the first trade of the week. The All Share Index (ASI) closed at 26,866.41 basis points, down by 0.45%. On a year to date basis, the ASI is down by 14.52%.

The market witnessed 151.7 million shares valued at N1.5 trillion traded in 2,854 deals. Top 5 deals for the day were FCMB, Transcorp, FBN Holdings, Access Bank, and Zenith Bank.

55.6 million shares of FCMB valued at N89 million were traded in 83 deals. FCMB informed the market and the investing public that it won’t be able to release its Q3 2019 consolidated results as at when due.

Transcorp followed with 17 million shares valued at N17.2 million traded in 69 deals. FBN Holdings – the parent company of tier-1 lender, FirstBank – traded 14.39 million shares valued at N76.2 million in 160 deals. 7.35 million shares of Access Bank valued at N52.35 million traded in 209 deals. Zenith Bank ends the top 5 trades by volume with 6.8 million shares valued at N123.5 million traded in 341 deals.

Top 5 gainers

Courtville led the gainers’ bandwagon with a 10% gain to close at N0.22. Africa Prudential followed with a 9.94% gain to close at N3.87. ABC Transport Closed at N0.37, gaining 8.82%. Wema Bank gained 8.62% to close at N0.63. UAC Nigeria rounds up the top 5 gainers with a 8.40% gain to close at N7.10.

Top 5 losers

Cornerstone Insurance took the biggest hit with a 10% loss and closing at N0.36. Seplat was next with a 6.85% loss to close at N517. Cadbury closed at N9.85, losing 5.74%.

Caverton lost 5.38% to close at N2.46. Oando rounds up the top 5 losers with a 2.7% loss, closing at N3.60.

Published in Business

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, on Monday said the planned increase of Value Added Tax (VAT) in the country will impact more on consumption by urban communities and the wealthier sections of the population.

Ahmed stated this at the 25th Nigerian Economic Summit in Abuja on Monday, explaining that the proposed tax increase would not affect the poor masses as perceived by some people.

The 2019 summit has as its theme: “Nigeria 2050 Shifting Gears”.

“The proposed VAT increase is likely to impact more on consumption by the urban communities and the wealthier sections of the population than on the poor”, she said.

Continuing, Ahmed said her ministry will coordinate its fiscal policies with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s current tight monetary policy stance to ensure that the appropriate outcomes are achieved in terms of growth, consumption and inflation.

She, however, said that Nigeria’s VAT contribution to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) had declined from one per cent between 2010 and 2013 to 0.8 per cent between 2015 and 2018.

“This is significantly below the median of five per cent of GDP in other comparable African countries.

“Nigeria’s low VAT-to-GDP is attributable to the low nominal VAT rate, which at five per cent is the lowest in the African region which averages at about 16 per cent.

“Furthermore, the efficiency of VAT collection at 0.2, is well below the African regional average of 0.33,’’ she explained.

Published in Bank & Finance

Union Bank of Nigeria Plc has notified the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) of its board meeting to consider the bank’s results for the 9 months period ended September 30, 2019, holding on October 21, 2019.

Consequently, the bank is declaring a close period, starting from October 7, 2019 till 24 hours after the result is released.

A Closed period is a period where it is illegal for staff and others with inside information (unpublished price sensitive information) to buy or sell the company’s shares.

The restriction is in accordance with the NSE rulebook Rule 17.17 (a), which states that:

“No Director, person discharging managerial responsibility and Adviser of the Issuer and their connected persons shall deal in the securities of the Issuer when the trading window is closed. Any period during which trading is restricted shall be termed as a closed period.”

In the same vein, fast moving consumer goods company (FMCG), Unilever Nigeria Plc is also informing the exchange and the investing public of its closed period, starting today, October 8 till October 28, 2019, or 24 hours after the results have been filled.

Unilever Nigeria traded N26.70 per share while Union Bank traded N7 during yesterday’s trading sessions on the floor of the NSE.

Published in Bank & Finance

Africa needs more innovation in the agricultural sector that is both affordable and sustainable if it is to improve its levels of food security, says Dr Max Wengawenga, Assistant Chief Economic Advisor to the President of the Republic of Malawi.

Dr Wengawenga, who will be speaking at the Agritech Africa 2020 conference in Cape Town in June next year, says technology has the potential to make a meaningful impact on food security.  It is not a new concept, he says, as innovation and technology have been used to improve agricultural productivity over the years.

“However,” he says, “In Africa, my message to innovators would be that they should come up with more user-friendly and affordable technologies to increase food productivity, even among the resource-poor farmers.”

Food security has been a topic of heated debate in South Africa recently with the proposed constitutional amendment to expedite land reform. Food security is intricately tied to a healthy and strong agriculture sector.

President Cyril Ramaphosa is acutely aware of this, saying at the time of announcing the African National Congress’s intention to amend Section 25 of the constitution: “The intention of this proposed amendment is to promote redress, advance economic development, increase agricultural production and food security.”

The chairperson of the Presidential Expert Advisory Panel on Land Reform and Agriculture Dr Vuyo Mahlathi called on the president in July this year, when handing over the recommendations of the panel, to expedite land reform in a way that will not compromise the country’s food security.

What is food security?

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) defines food security as existing “when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”.

Closer to home, South Africa is still largely recognised as a food-secure country. Nonetheless, there are still many people who do not have access to sufficient food. Most of these people lack the financial means to access food, and so it becomes clear that besides being able to physically produce food, a country needs sufficient economic opportunities to help reduce the number of food insecure people. Food is a fundamental human right. South Africa’s unique situation highlights that dealing with food security very often goes beyond the actual production of food.

Regionally and globally, the pursuit of food security may require agricultural productivity-enhancing technologies; it may require mechanisms aimed at raising income levels for people to have the financial means access enough, quality food; and it may involve improving marketing systems that would enable regions with a food surplus to trade with counterparts in food-deficit areas. You may well find it to be a combination of these strategies.

Support

In order to take advantage of the opportunities the fourth industrial revolution presents for agriculture, there needs to be widespread dissemination for farmers to utilise new technologies and increase their productivity. All stakeholders have to work together in a co-ordinated approach, says Dr Wengawenga.

“Policy makers need to support the work of researchers; the extension workers need to take the message and innovation to the farmers. Media is also important to help with the dissemination process,” he says.   

Technology has already had a marked impact on agricultural productivity. Whether it is advances in the internet of things and artificial intelligence, or the use of smart machines or cutting-edge science, innovation has already brought about higher-yielding cop varieties, smarter use of water resources and battle plans to deal with pest attacks.

These technologies need not be the exclusive domain of resource-strong farmers. “Subsistence and emerging farmers, for instance, like being involved in the development of new technologies that address their problems,” says Dr Wengawenga. “This allows scientists first-hand experience of real problems on the ground and not perceived challenges.”

Climate change

Extreme weather events such as prolonged droughts and flooding are made worse by a shift in rainfall patterns and regional climate changes.

As the climate shift has a negative effect on agriculture, families and communities that rely on farming for their livelihood are the first to feel the economic stress, explains Dr Wengawenga. This is one of the ways climate change pushes people deeper into poverty. This increases the risk of social unrest and political instability.

The link between land and food security speaks to the commitment by Ramaphosa to prioritise food security during the land reform process South Africa.

Explaining how technology can and should be implemented to help agriculture mitigate the effects of climate change, Dr Wengawenga says: “Water harvesting techniques and suitable irrigation systems are needed to withstand the devastation effects of droughts.

“Crop varieties also need to be aligned to the weather patterns - agricultural scientists have to come up with fast-maturing varieties for areas having shorter rainy seasons and drought-resistant varieties for the areas that are getting dry,” says Dr Wengawenga.

Dr Wengawenga says that agritech holds immense possibility for Africa and the world. Agritech is broadly defined as the use of technology in agriculture, horticulture and aquaculture to improve yield and efficiency.

Published in Agriculture

Striking Zimbabwean doctors defied a government ultimatum to return to work on Monday, after rejecting a 60% pay rise offer they say is not enough to keep up with soaring prices of basic goods.

The southern African nation’s economy is grappling with its worst crisis in a decade, with triple-digit inflation, rolling power cuts and shortages of U.S. dollars, medicines and fuel that have revived memories of the 2008 hyperinflation under late President Robert Mugabe.

The Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association (ZHDA), the union for junior and middle level doctors in the public sector, on Monday pulled out of the Health Apex Council that represents public health workers in negotiations with the government, saying it no longer served their interests.

The association said the government offer was “ridiculous” as it would take their monthly salaries to around 1,700 Zimbabwe dollars ($111), well below their demand of a 400% salary hike.

More than 100 of its members marched at the main Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare on Monday demanding higher pay and vowing not to return to work.

The doctors have been on strike for more than a month, which has seen some patients being turned away from public hospitals already struggling with shortages of medicines.

ZHDA said in a statement that the government was not willing to address their concerns but had instead responded with “intimidation and threats of disciplinary action or dismissals.”

“The will and desire is there but the means to execute their (the doctors’) duties does not exist,” it said.

Health Minister Obadiah Moyo, who on Saturday issued the ultimatum for doctors to return to work on Monday or face disciplinary action, said he could not immediately comment.

Tapiwa Mungofa, the ZHDA treasurer, later told reporters that the World Health Organisation and other United Nations agencies should help raise funding for Zimbabwe’s health sector and broker a solution to end the strike.

The doctors want their salaries indexed to the U.S. dollar because the Zimbabwe dollar is losing value against the greenback while earnings are being eroded by inflation, which the International Monetary Fund said stood at nearly 300% in August.

The government lifted the price of diesel and petrol by up to 27% on Saturday, which was followed by increases in the prices of goods like sugar, cooking oil and milk and transport.

Last week, President Emmerson Mnangagwa pleaded for time and patience to revive the economy.

Hopes that it would quickly rebound under Mnangagwa, who took over after Mugabe was deposed in a coup in November 2017, have faded fast, as Zimbabweans grapple with inflation that has eroded earnings and savings.

 

Reuters

Published in Economy
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