Items filtered by date: Thursday, 02 May 2019

Dr Abiodun Adedipe, a member of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, says that increasing tax rates is not the cure all for growing tax revenue in Nigeria.

Adedipe, also a management and financial consultant, said this at a programme with the theme: “The Drivers, Enablers and Obstacles to Our Growth”, organised by Platform Nigeria in Lagos on Wednesday.

“The situation is like flogging a dead horse. With the research we have made in taxation, we realised that when you raise tax rates, you will only have those in the tax net to bear that burden.

“Rather, we should creatively and innovatively think of how to bring those outside the tax net into the system.

“There is a principle in economics that says people respond to incentives. Our tax system does not provide for redress. If I have any complaint about my tax, there is no window to present such complaint. We have to look into this.

“Also, people willingly pay tax in other parts of the world because the taxes are working in their life. Nigeria needs leaders who are trustworthy, who the citizens can trust with their money and funds,” he said.

Adedipe also suggested how the power problem in the country could be resolved and how to ensure adequate privatisation of institutions.

“In Nigeria today, when we privatise, we only convert public monopolists to private monopolists and so, they deliver no value like we have in the power sector.

“We need to begin to add a clause for adequate capital when we privatise. If our DISCOs do not have the capital to do what they are supposed to do, there is a simple way to get the power sector in Nigeria to work.

“Mandate the DISCOs to meter all consumers in the country. Once they do that the revenue they generate from estimated billing will drop. When this happens, they will sit up and they will realise that providing power to the entire value chain is relevant and critical to their revenue base.

“There are lots of entrepreneurs who want to make money and they will realise that to make money, power needs to be generated.

“That will, however, make the DISCOs not think about only themselves, but how to distribute power adequately to make money from consumers and with this we can solve the power problem,” he said.

Adedipe said that a change of the Nigerian story was in the hands of the elite in the country and not the government.

According to him, the elites are the well exposed but they act on enlightened self-interest and they have access to power but they abuse power.

“The elites take loans and mostly, do not want to repay. There is over N5 trillion on AMCON’s balance sheet, which if we can convert only N2 trillion and put it into funding this economy, we will go some distance.

“They love bailout when their money pots are drying up but make dubious arguments on subsidies that impact the bottom of the pyramid.

“They also earn the most but pay the least taxes and levies and they also know how things should work in the country but pursue enlightened self interest always.

“We need to stop talking ill of Nigeria and walk the talk and act accordingly,” he said.

Published in Economy

European Union Foreign Policy Chief, Federica Mogherini, on Thursday said the U.S. law, allowing lawsuits against foreign firms active in Cuba, is contrary to international law and undermines trust in the trans-Atlantic partnership.

As part of White House efforts to increase pressure on Havana, in April the U.S. announced changes to the so-called Helms Burton Act, which would come into effect on May 2.

Specifically, Washington decided to lift its suspension of Title III, under which U.S. citizens of Cuban descent can sue foreign firms and individuals using property confiscated from them by the Cuban government after the country’s 1959 revolution.

“Those who use such property will also face visa restrictions to the U.S.,’’ Washington announced.

According to Mogherini, the EU deeply regrets the move.

“The EU considers the extra-territorial application of unilateral restrictive measures to be contrary to international law.

“The decision to activate Title III is a breach of the commitments undertaken in the EU-U.S. agreements of 1997 and 1998,’’ the statement says.

“This will cause unnecessary friction and undermines trust and predictability in the transatlantic partnership.

“The EU will draw on all appropriate measures to address the effects of the US measures,’’ Mogherini said.

She cited the bloc’s rights under the World Trade Organisation and the EU’s so-called Blocking Statute aimed at protecting European companies if they are sued.

Act III of the Helms Burton Act, introduced in 1996, had until now been suspended by every U.S. administration.

 
Published in World

Juventus star, Cristiano Ronaldo has reportedly purchased the world’s most expensive car costing over £9million- a Bugatti La Voiture Noire.

Reports suggest Ronaldo has spent €11million (£9.49million) on the unique Bugatti which was first presented to the world at the Geneva Motor Show 2019.

The French luxury company built only one of the prototype supercar and it is a tribute to the 110th anniversary of the founding of the company.

The car is a modern interpretation of the mythical and legendary Bugatti Type 57 SC Atlantic, four of which were built between 1936 and 1938.

The car is powered by an 8.0-litre turbocharged W16 engine and can reach 260mph.

Bugatti have confirmed the one-off model now has an owner, but have refused to officially identify them.

Spanish sports paper Marca reports that the new owner is the legendary footballer, despite previous claims that it was bought by Ferdinand Piech, former chairman of the Volkswagen Group.

The owner will not be able to drive the car until 2021 as the company still needs to finalise some small details on the prototype, according to reports.

Ronaldo has a fleet of luxury cars which reportedly include a Mercedes C Class Sport Coupe, a Rolls-Royce Phantom, a Ujn Ferrari 599 GTO, a Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4, an Aston Martin DB9, a McLaren MP4 12C and a Bentley Continental GTC Speed.

Published in World

The Loire Valley town of Amboise will kick off festivities marking the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death in style on Thursday, with the French and Italian presidents topping the bill.

The Florentine master who personified the Italian Renaissance was the guest of France’s King Francis I for the final three years of his life before his death in Amboise in 1519.

France’s Emmanuel Macron and Italian President Sergio Mattarella will mark the anniversary with visits to his grave at the royal chateau and the Clos Luce, the sumptuous manor house nearby where Leonardo lived and died.

Among glitterati attending the events will be Italian star architect Renzo Piano and French astronaut Thomas Pesquet.

The joint celebrations come after months of mounting diplomatic tensions between Paris and Rome over the hardline policies of Italy’s populist government and its support for France’s anti-government “yellow vest” protesters.

In the worst diplomatic crisis between the two countries since World War II, Paris briefly recalled its ambassador from Rome.

Mattarella, staunchly pro-EU like Macron, played an “essential role” in lowering tensions, Macron’s office said.

After some 200 “yellow vests” staged protests in Amboise on Saturday, the town of some 13,000 people was already in virtual lockdown early Wednesday ahead of the presidential visit.

Parking was banned along the riverside motorcade route, with anyone flouting the ban having their vehicle towed away.

Shops, bars and restaurants below the chateau will be shuttered on Thursday.

Emmanuel Honnet, who runs the Cafe des Arts snack bar by the chateau, said the precautions were “understandable… given the terrible social climate and the real terrorist risk”.

But the 51-year-old vented “frustration” that the townspeople would be largely sidelined. “It should be the memory of a lifetime,” he said.

Macron will be the first French president to visit the town since Charles de Gaulle came in 1959.

– ‘Architect of the king’ –

Francis I, known as the “Sun King of the 16th century”, is widely credited with bringing the Renaissance to France, even if his predecessor Louis XII had begun the process by bringing in architects and artisans from Florence, Milan and Rome.

Leonardo was 64 when he accepted the young Francis I’s invitation, at a time when rivals Michelangelo and Raphael were rising stars.

With Leonardo’s commissions drying up, it came as a great relief and no small vindication for the Tuscan artist, who received a handsome stipend as the “first painter, engineer and architect of the king”.

At the time, Francis I was barely 23, and his ambitious mother Louise of Savoy “knew that Leonardo would be the man who would allow her son to flourish”, Catherine Simon Marion, managing director of the Clos Luce, told AFP.

Leonardo brought with him three of his favourite paintings: the Mona Lisa, the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne, and Saint John the Baptist — all of which today hang in the Louvre museum in Paris.

Italy and France have also sparred over an accord under which Italy will lend several Leonardos to the Louvre in October.

With fewer than 20 Leonardo paintings still in existence, many Italians are resentful that the Louvre possesses five of them, as well as 22 drawings.

During his three years in Amboise, Leonardo organised lavish parties for the court and worked to design an ideal city for Francis at nearby Romorantin, one of the polymath’s many unrealised projects — all while continuing his research.

On Thursday, Macron and Mattarella will also travel to the sprawling chateau of Chambord, whose central double-helix staircase is attributed to Leonardo — though the first stone was not laid until four months after his death

Published in World

South Africa has a jobs crisis. In the fourth quarter of 2018, 6.14 million people were out of work, an unemployment rate of 27.1%, which is one of the highest rates in the world, along with sub-Saharan African countries like Lesotho, Mozambique and Namibia.

South Africa’s labour market has another important distinction. Only about three million people who are working – about 18% of all employed (16.53 million) – are in the informal sector. That’s much lower than other developing countries. For example in India and Ethiopia, up to 50% of those with jobs are employed in the informal sector. The figure is as high as 90% in Ghana and Mali.

There are two schools of thought around the role and value of a country’s informal sector. Some argue that it’s an important alternative to the limited opportunities available in the formal sector; a survivalist strategy that allows those without much formal education to work and earn money. In addition, others argue, the informal sector is also an important space for entrepreneurs.

But there are some who disagree, arguing that employment in the informal sector tends to be poorly paid and precarious. A mere 20% of informal sector employees are hired permanently, compared to 70% of those in the formal sector.

Little is known about how many people transition between the two sectors, a phenomenon called “churning”. Addressing this knowledge gap is important for a number of reasons. These include the fact that informal workers may be spending some time in the formal sector, getting valuable skills and work experience to boost their chances at formal employment, with the hope that they eventually settle permanently in the formal sector, which would be good news.

Conversely, knowing whether there’s a high rate of transition from the formal to the informal sector would be cause for concern because it would suggest high rates of retrenchment and fewer formal job opportunities.

The data

We set out to understand “churning” between South Africa’s formal and informal sectors. To do this we analysed data from the country’s National Income Dynamics Study – a study that was conducted four times between 2008 and 2015 by the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit based at the University of Cape Town’s School of Economics.

We found there was a lot of movement between the informal and formal sectors during these years. But there were very few instances of people making successful, lasting transitions from informal to formal sector employment.

This emphasises South Africa’s skills mismatch. The formal sector requires skills that those in the informal sector simply don’t have. More education and support is necessary to bridge this gap.

Our data were drawn from the National Income Dynamics Survey, which is the first national household panel study in South Africa. It examines the living standards of individuals and households over time.

By analysing data from the four waves of the study we were able to make some key findings about churning, and about the informal sector more broadly. These included:

  • Only 8% of those surveyed were inactive (7%) or unemployed (1%) in all four waves – that is, throughout the seven-year period. About 54% were employed in one to three waves, meaning they worked transitorily but not continuously;

  • only 3% worked in the informal sector in all four waves;

  • only 12% always worked in the formal sector during the seven years under review; and,

  • 8% of individuals worked throughout the seven years under review but transitioned between the two sectors.

These results clearly indicate that a high proportion of the labour force participants have been in and out of employment (which is not surprising, given the country’s high unemployment rate), some workers enjoy the privilege of always working in the formal sector, and most importantly, churning between the informal and formal sectors definitely takes place to some extent.

The findings also emphasised how precarious the informal sector is. For instance, 67% of those who started off working in the formal sector in 2008 remained there seven years later. This suggests that for those who initially secured work in the formal sector, retrenchment likelihood is not as high as perhaps anticipated. The retention figure in the informal sector was just 39%. Only 27% of those in the informal sector successfully transitioned to the formal sector.

The country’s many social inequalities were evident in the data. Black women without school leaving certificates aged between 25 and 44 years were most likely to remain in the informal sector. Highly educated white men living in the urban areas of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces were most likely to successfully transition from the informal to the formal sector.

Filling the gaps

Given what we’ve learned from this research, how might the government and policy makers deal with those who “churn”?

First, the country’s education system must do more to produce skilled labour in the areas the economy requires. Formal firms could help here, by providing assistance and information on what skills are needed and how to develop these. This implies that strengthening the partnership between industry and universities is important, as this would help those who are able to access higher education.

Those who don’t go on to higher education, or don’t complete their secondary schooling, also need to be helped. The government should more actively provide workshops and specialised assistance to enhance entrepreneurship skills and advise small informal firms on growth strategies. These incentives will assist in their growth, long-term sustainability and successful transition to the formal sector.

In addition, larger, more established formal firms can also play a role by helping to develop and train informal sector workers and providing expert guidance to informal firms. This assistance can be incentivised through tax reductions and the prospects of a larger collective market via the informal sector.

Lastly, the government should continuously alleviate the numerous barriers to the informal economy. These include limited credit and training opportunities, poor infrastructure and the red tape that makes it difficult to start a business.The Conversation

 

Moegammad Faeez Nackerdien, Lecturer, University of the Western Cape and Derek Yu, Associate Professor, Economics, University of the Western Cape

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

Published in Opinion & Analysis

Oil prices fell on Thursday, pulled down by record U.S. crude production that led to a surge in stockpiles.

Spot Brent crude oil futures were at 71.81 dollars per barrel at 0655 GMT, 35 cents, or 0.5 per cent, below their last close.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 27 cents, or 0.4 per cent, at 63.33 dollars per barrel.

“Crude oil prices fell sharply as stockpiles in the U.S. rose to their highest level since 2017.

“This comes as U.S. refineries head into the spring maintenance period, stoking fears that crude oil demand will be soft and stockpiles will continue to rise,” ANZ bank said on Thursday.

U.S. crude stockpiles last week rose to their highest since September 2017, jumping by 9.9 million barrels to 470.6 barrels, as production set a record high of 12.3 million barrels per day (bpd), while refining rates fell, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Wednesday.

Outside the United States, however, oil markets remained tight amid the political crisis in Venezuela, tighter U.S. sanctions against Iran that allow no more exemptions from May, and as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) continues to withhold supply in order to prop up prices.

Oman’s energy minister Mohammed bin Hamad al-Rumhy said on Wednesday it was OPEC’s goal to extend the cuts, which were started in January, when they next meet in June.

Despite the desire of many OPEC members to keep withholding supply to prop up the market, the group may be forced into action.

“The Venezuelan situation will likely loom large in OPEC deliberations as ministers weigh how many additional barrels may be needed to fill an expanding supply gap that is being driven by geopolitics as opposed to geology,” Canadian bank, RBC Capital Markets, said.

Beyond Venezuela, analysts at Fitch Solutions also warned of risks to supply from Libya, where a civil war is threatening to cut oil fields off from markets.

“The risks here are not inconsiderable, in light of rising instability in a number of key producers, notably Libya and Venezuela,” Fitch Solutions said.

For producers, the tight market conditions mean higher profits.

Analysts at Bernstein Energy said current price levels reflected the average marginal cost for most listed oil producers.

“We have surveyed the 50 largest listed oil and gas companies globally … Based on 2018 annual reports we estimate that the global marginal cost of oil remained stable at 71 dollars per barrel,” Bernstein said in a note on Thursday.

“This is on line with current spot prices but higher than the long-term oil forward strip price of 61 dollars per barrel,” the note said.

“With oil prices rising more than costs, industry margins increased by more than 200 per cent in 2018,” Bernstein said, resulting in industry profitability “at the highest in the last 5 years.”

 
Published in Business

Saudi Arabia’s coast guard assisted an Iranian oil tanker with engine trouble off the coast of Jeddah in the Red Sea after Riyadh received a request for help from Iran, the state news agency SPA said on Thursday.

Iran, which confirmed that its vessel had broken down in the area, and Saudi Arabia are arch-adversaries in the Middle East, backing opposite sides in several regional wars.

SPA said that the Iranian tanker “Happiness 1” and its 26 crew members were found 70 km (43 miles) southwest of Jeddah Islamic Port and the captain had requested a tow due to “engine failure and loss of control”.

“The kingdom received an official request for help, through its permanent delegation to the United Nations in New York, from the Iranian charge d’affaires in the Iranian delegation,” SPA quoted a coast guard spokesman as saying.

“All necessary precautions were taken for the safety of the crew and to ensure there is no environmental damage and to provide assistance,” it added.

The National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC) said the tanker had suffered engine failure but there had been no leak of its contents into the Red Sea, according to SHANA, the Iranian oil ministry’s news agency.

“On Tuesday, the vessel, with 26 crew members aboard, was sailing in the Red Sea towards the Suez Canal when its engine failed due to water leakage to the engine room,” SHANA said.

It added that the crew were 24 Iranians and two Bangladeshis.

SHANA said the tanker was now safe with no injuries reported, and there was no environmental damage from the incident.

The United States decided to end all waivers on Iranian oil imports by May 1 after which buyers of oil from the Islamic Republic could face sanctions.

Published in Business

WhatsApp is a pretty easy app to get. It is on all platforms from smartphone operating systems to the rudimentary operating systems you find on feature phones.

However you still find weird forks of WhatsApp everywhere and one of the popular ones is called GBWhatsApp. Well it seems WhatsApp is not too happy about this as people have noticed that WhatsApp is banning the popular fork.

The notice reads: You’re temporarily banned from WhatsApp because you may have violated our terms of service. The message was then followed by a ticker that displayed how long WhatsApp will ban you, where in this case, this guy was banned for over 9 hours!

If you check WhatsApp’s Terms of Service, you can see the multiple places where GB WhatsApp has violated their terms.

Under ‘Whatsapp Rights’, it says: We own copyrights, trademarks, domains, logos, trade dress, trade secrets, patents and other intellectual property rights associated with our Services. You may not use our copyrights, trademarks, domains, logos, trade dress, patents, and other intellectual property rights unless you have our express permission and except in accordance with our Brand Guidelines.

This could be the reason why WhatsApp is temporarily banning users from using GBWhatsApp. The move to ban users from using Whatsapp GB could also be a passive aggressive move by Whatsapp to discourage people from using GBWhatsApp and use the official app instead.

There are a lot of WhatsApp forks out there and we have to see whether this is a start of a trend by WhatsApp to kill them off one by one.

 

Credit: techweez
Published in Telecoms

Starting April 30, Londoners are able to view public transport information alongside fares and wait times on the Uber app, to see if taking the tube is quicker or cheaper than waiting.

The first, and perhaps only, think you’d think after hearing that news is 'Wouldn’t that result in fewer people getting Uber rides?' Public transport is often a lot cheaper than hailing an Uber, even in an expensive city like London, and if the Uber app presents its users with a choice, they’ll likely choose the cheaper option.

Uber’s pitching the function as a way to reduce car ownership, as well as clean up London’s air, but as with any corporate attempt at philanthropy, you have to take those claims with a massive pinch of salt. Instead, Uber could be playing the long game to assert its ride-hailing dominance for good.

What’s changed with Uber?
When the London Public Transport update rolls out to Uber users across London, a new option will be available once you select a destination, which will use information from Transport for London (TfL) to tell you the best public transport route to get to where you want to be.

The app will aggregate information from buses, trains, trams, shuttles, the London underground, rail lines and even boats on the river Thames to tell you the quickest, or cheapest, way of getting to your destination. The app will also provide walking directions between stations if you need to transfer at any point.

The purpose of this all is to replace your car with your phone – if Uber can’t get you hailing cabs, it at least wants you to use its app for however you will travel. The company is also presenting it as an ‘eco-initiative’, so prospective Uber customers could get the bus or tube instead of getting a driver to ferry them about the city.

Of course, getting your customers to use a competing service isn’t a great business strategy, but the London Public Transport feature is likely just the first step in a longer plan by Uber.

This kind of service is already offered by Uber in Denver, in the US, but London has a population over 11 times higher, so it’s a whole new ball game when it comes to the amount of information the app is required to process.

Patching up a rocky relationship
Over the past few years, Uber has been fighting hard to continue operations in London. It’s had to defend itself against a wave of accusations of unlawful behavior in the way it pays and manages its staff, unsafe environments for passengers in vehicles, and tough working environments for its drivers.

 

At times it’s looked like Uber drivers wouldn’t be able to operate in London, and while the company has managed to overturn any ban presented so far, it’s still on rocky grounds with the Mayor of London’s office and TfL.

However by encouraging users to take public transport when possible, Uber is extending an olive branch to those parties, and showing them that it’s happy to work with the city’s entities to do what’s best for the customers.

If TfL and the Mayor’s office accept this olive branch, and tensions between the parties relax, it could be hugely beneficial for Uber – an end to, or relaxing of, the hostilities and legal proceedings could save it a lot of money and hassle.

Uber is using TfL’s live travel information as part of the update, but over 675 other apps do too, so that doesn’t point to a special relationship in any way.

In addition, while it’s certainly a valuable gesture on Uber’s part, it’s not necessarily one that could cause the ride-hailing firm much difficulty. If you’re visiting the app it’s because you already know you want to get a lift to your destination, and you’d visit others like Google Maps or CityMapper if you wanted to know which tube line to get. The potential number of lost customers is probably, in reality, pretty small.

Becoming the go-to travel app
As well as relaxing hostilities, Uber’s addition of public transport information to its app could be part of a long game the company has begun – one to transform the Uber app from a simple ride-hailing app, into the go-to service for intra-city travel.

If Uber can get people to use its app as a way to find any kind of transport, and draw users away from Google Maps and CityMapper for these functions, it can slowly start to increase its market share, and open itself to a new audience, who typically wouldn’t hail an Uber.

This would increase Uber’s user base significantly, and a fair chunk of that audience would likely start using the ride-sharing part of the app if the various taxi options were presented alongside public transport choices, especially for journeys with many transfers or for customers in a rush.

Other apps work similar – Google Maps, for example, lets you explore different modes of transport for a journey including walking, driving, public transport, or hailing a cab using an app. Presumably Uber’s app will work similarly in the future, but unlike Google, Uber will make money off customers who decide to catch a cab.

Of course, this is all speculation and guesswork – but it makes no business sense for Uber to intentionally try to cut down its user base, so the update is likely part of a larger plan the company has.

Published in Travel & Tourism
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