Items filtered by date: Monday, 06 May 2019

Even with a decisive election victory for South Africa’s ruling party this week, the country’s President Cyril Ramaphosa could still struggle to push through the tough reforms needed to galvanize Africa’s most developed economy, say analysts and some party insiders.

The former union leader turned business tycoon has promised to introduce major economic reforms and extend a crackdown on corruption if his African National Congress (ANC) party is returned to power in Wednesday’s national election. Ramaphosa’s allies say a result close to 60 percent in this week’s parliamentary vote, which some opinion polls suggest could be possible, would strengthen his hand to deliver on those pledges.

But some analysts and ANC party insiders are skeptical that Ramaphosa would make much progress with reforms, even with a clear election victory. They cite his tenuous grip over the party’s decision-making bodies, where former comrades in the struggle against the brutal apartheid regime are at each other’s throats in a high-stakes battle for power and wealth.

“Ramaphosa needs a united ANC to achieve his agenda, but he doesn’t have that,” said a veteran ANC politician who did not wish to be identified discussing internal rivalries. “His enemies are going nowhere.”

Ralph Mathekga, a political analyst and author of a book on Ramaphosa, echoed the view. “There’s a herd mentality that if Ramaphosa gets a strong majority for the ANC, it will somehow strengthen him. That’s not the case,” he said.

Ramaphosa disputes that his hands will be tied if he is returned to power. At a campaign event last week in Johannesburg he said there would be a “step-change” in the pace of reform and that the economy was ready for lift off. “Our government is now going to open up the valves of our economy and give our people an opportunity,” he said.

Ramaphosa became leader of the ANC in December 2017 after narrowly defeating a faction allied with his scandal-plagued predecessor Jacob Zuma. This will be Ramaphosa’s first national election since taking over as head of state in February 2018, after roughly four years as Zuma’s deputy.

The president is under pressure to address gaping racial disparities in income and wealth that persist 25 years after the end of white minority rule. He also wants to reverse a slide in support for the ANC, which has governed South Africa since 1994 but in recent years has lost support in major cities like the financial and political capitals of Johannesburg and Pretoria.

In the 15 months since he took office, Ramaphosa has been forced into uneasy compromises in key policy areas like land reform and fixing struggling state power firm Eskom, opposition politicians say.

Ramaphosa has vowed to accelerate the redistribution of land to the black majority, endorsing an opposition bill to amend the constitution to make expropriation without compensation easier.

But he also has offered assurances that investments and food security would not be threatened. In doing so, he satisfied neither radical left-wing nor business-friendly factions within his governing alliance and the opposition.

On Eskom, the president has promised trade unions that there will be no layoffs as part of a turnaround plan, even though company management and energy experts say the utility’s bloated workforce is one of its biggest problems.

Getting land reform right and repairing Eskom will be critical to restoring investor confidence in an economy where growth has slowed to a trickle due to a toxic mix of corruption scandals and regulatory upheaval during Zuma’s tenure.

“If you see progress in the clean-up of state-owned enterprises like Eskom that would mean that big headache that investors have would fade away,” said Tilmann Kolb, analyst at the financial services firm UBS Global Wealth Management.

 

- Reuters

Published in Economy

Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) on Sunday announced a trade surplus of N15.04 billion ($42m) for January 2019.

In a statement by its Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Ndu Ughamadu, the NNPC disclosed that it recorded a 24 per cent increase over the N12.13 billion surplus posted by the corporation in December 2019.

Ughamadu attributed the positive financial position to the improved performance of NNPC’s upstream subsidiary, Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, NPDC, which recorded surplus numbers despite reduced operational activities in the month.

The NNPC’s January 2019 edition of its Monthly Financial and Operations Report revealed that the NPDC recorded a sustained revenue drive, evident from recent average weekly production of 332,000 barrels of crude oil per day, BPD, had made achieving 500,000bpd production by 2020 plausible.

The NPDC’s position, the NNPC noted, contrasted with the high expenditure levels posted by its two other entities, the Petroleum Products Marketing Company PPMC and Duke Oil, although both ended the month with profit.

In terms of sales and remittance of crude oil and gas proceeds, the NNPC announced total export receipts of $381.70 million in the month under review as against $345.68 million posted in December 2018.

Giving a breakdown of the numbers, the NNPC indicated that contributions from crude oil amounted to $269.43 million, while gas and miscellaneous receipts stood at $111.75 million and $0.52 million respectively.

It said, “Within the period under focus, NNPC transferred N153.01 billion into the Federation Account, while cumulatively, from January 2018 to January 2019, Federation and JV received N905.45 billion and N658.66 billion respectively, under the column of Naira Payments to the Federation Accounts.

“In the downstream operations, 1,998.61 million litres of petrol was supplied into the country through the Direct-Sale-Direct-Purchase (DSDP) crude-for-product arrangement in January 2019. The number is slightly higher than the 1,789.20million litres of petrol supplied in the month of December 2018.”

The NNPC stated that 230 hacked pipeline points were recorded, leaving only two ruptured, marking an 11 per cent improvement from the 264 vandalized points posted in December 2018.

“A breakdown indicated that Mosimi-Ibadan, Ibadan-Ilorin and Aba-Enugu pipelines accounted for 67, 62 and 30 points respectively, which translated to 29 per cent, 27 per cent and 13 per cent of the vandalized points, respectively.

“The Warri-River Niger axis accounted for 10 per cent and other locations accounted for the remaining 21 per cent of the pipeline breaks,” it added. In the gas sector, the NNPC declared that natural gas production increased by 2.22 per cent at 245.83 billion cubic feet compared to output in December 2018, translating to an average production of 8,194.34 million standard cubic feet of gas per day (mmscfd).

Out of the volume supplied in January 2019, it added that a total of 151.50 billion SCF of gas was commercialized, consisting of 38.03 billion SCF and 113.47 billion SCF for the domestic and export market respectively.

The figure, the NNPC said translated to a total supply of 1.226.83 billion SCF per day of gas to the domestic market and 3,780.24 mmscfd of gas supplied to the export market for the month.

“This implies that that 61.73 per cent of the average daily gas produced was commercialized, while the balance of 38.27 per cent was re-injected, used as upstream fuel gas or flared.

“Gas flare rate was 7.52 per cent for the month under review, translating to 610.07 mmscfd compared with average gas flare rate of 9.76 per cent, that is 770.31 mmscfd for the period January 2018 to January 2019,” the corporation disclosed.

Published in Business

Sri Lankan police on Sunday discovered a 10-acre camp in the eastern town of Kattankudy, where militants linked to the deadly Easter attacks are believed to have practiced shooting and bomb-making.

The walled terrain is nestled in a poor residential area on the outskirts of the home town of Zahran Hashim, who is believed to have been a key player in plotting the April 21 attacks.

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack that killed more than 250 people and nearly 500 wounded in the attacks by militants on churches and hotels across the Indian Ocean island on April 21.

The narrow, sandy plot is dotted with a cinderblock four-storey watchtower, as well as mango trees, a chicken coop and a goat shed.

“They wanted to show this place was normal. If someone comes to see, it looks like a farm. But what they were doing is terrorism,” said a senior police officer in the Batticaloa area.

Police found bullet holes in the wall on one side of the grounds, as well as long tubes suspected of holding bombs, the officer said.

Two owners of the plot of land have been arrested, the officer said.

Although Islamic State gave no evidence to back up its claim, Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena, on Saturday said that he believed the group orchestrated the attacks that plunged Sri Lanka in a nightmare.

The government has warned that the militants were plotting more attacks, and police and military were conducting a security sweep of schools ahead of the staggered re-opening of state institutions on Monday.

Zion would need more repairs before the church could be used again. There were also no services at St Sebastian’s Church in Negambo, where at least 102 people perished.

But a mass was held behind closed doors at St. Anthony’s Church in Colombo, the third church bombed that day.

Fourteen children, many of whom were having breakfast in the church portico, were killed and several dozen worshippers in this largely low-income congregation were wounded, according to Zion church officials.

Published in World

The President of the United Nations General Assembly, María Garces will be in Nigeria today on a working visit.

In a statement by the spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Friday Akpan, Garces and her delegation will be received into the country by officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the United Nations office in Abuja.

The UNGA President will use the opportunity of her visit to have a bilateral meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa.

She will also meet with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ahead of a joint press conference.

The key issues to be discussed during the meeting are Nigeria’s transition to the 74th Presidency of the General Assembly; pp-coming High-Level Meetings; Strengthening Multilateralism to respond to global challenges; Nigeria’s role in Regional Peace and Security; and Nigeria’s Regional Initiatives to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Similarly, the UN diplomat is also expected to present a paper with the theme “Responding to Global Challenges in a fast-changing World: the Case for Strengthening Multilateralism” at the University of Abuja.

Before her departure on Wednesday, Garces will hold an Interactive Session with women at the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development.

Published in World

The death toll has jumped to 41 people, including two children, who were killed Sunday in a fiery airplane accident at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, a spokeswoman for the Russian Investigative Committee said.

The Sukhoi SSJ100 operated by national airline Aeroflot had 78 passengers and five crew members on board when it touched down and sped down a runway spewing huge flames and black smoke.

According to Russian news agencies, the plane had taken off for the northern city of Murmansk, but a fire broke out while the flight was airborne. Social media videos show the plane engulfed in flames after it landed. Some news reports cited sources as saying the plane bounced several times during the landing.

Emergency vehicles arrived at the airport to assist passengers moving away from the plane — some holding luggage — and fight the flames, which were coming out of the airplane’s rear section. It’s unclear what caused the fire.

“Investigators soon will begin interviewing victims, eyewitnesses, airport staff and the airline carrier, as well as other persons responsible for the operation of the aircraft,” Investigative Committee spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko said.

The SSJ100, also known as the Superjet, is a two-engine regional jet put into service in 2011 with considerable fanfare as a signal that Russia’s troubled aerospace industry was on the rise.

This isn’t the first time the Sukhoi Superjet has been involved in a high-profile incident. In 2012, a Sukhoi Superjet crashed in Indonesia during a demonstration flight for potential investors, killing all 45 people aboard. The aircraft is Russia’s first new model of passenger jet since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Published in Travel & Tourism

US President Donald Trump announced Sunday that the United States would raise tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods to 25 percent this week, because trade talks are moving “too slowly.”

Trump’s action came as a major Chinese delegation is expected to arrive Wednesday in Washington for the latest round of talks to end the trade war between the world’s two biggest economies — a round billed as the last one and possibly leading to a deal to end the conflict.

“For 10 months, China has been paying Tariffs to the USA of 25% on 50 Billion Dollars of High Tech, and 10% on 200 Billion Dollars of other goods,” Trump tweeted.

“The 10% will go up to 25% on Friday,” he said.

The two sides have imposed tariffs on $360 billion in two-way trade since last year. But Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed to a truce in December to refrain from further escalation.

As recently as last week, the US had depicted the trade talks as going well.

“The Trade Deal with China continues, but too slowly, as they attempt to renegotiate. No!” Trump complained Sunday.

Trump says he wants to reduce the huge US trade deficit with China, which in 2018 totalled $378.73 billion if you include trade in services.

Besides a greater opening of the Chinese market to US goods, Trump is pressing for structural changes such as Beijing ending its practice of forcing US companies that operate in China to share their technology.

Trump is also demanding that China halt theft of intellectual property and subsidies to state-owned companies.

To pressure China, Trump has even threatened to slap tariffs on all Chinese products entering the US — they were worth $539.5 billion last year.

Published in Business
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