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Wednesday, 04 March 2020
MTN Nigeria Communications Plc has introduced, “MTN Topit” for virtual top-up services in a bid to get rid of paper vouchers.

The Chief Sales and Distribution Officer, Mr Adekunle Adebiyi, explained that the communication company was supporting the Federal Government in the design to rid the environment of pollution. He said the innovation was to revamp the existing product and make electronic recharge easy for subscribers.

“Paper pollution is a major threat we are facing; what we are doing today is to launch Topit and get Nigerians to know more about recharging without the use of paper. What we are doing today is revamping an existing product; we are in the fore-front to give Nigerians a platform as part of our continuous drive to make consumers’ lives easier, brighter and better.

“We believe in a modern connected world; one in which our customers can get solutions at the snap of their fingers; this is what Topit offers our customers, retailers and trade partners,” he said.

Adebiyi explained that Topit also provides efficient means of recharge for data and airtime distribution across diverse forms of electronic recharge. He added that with improved user experience, it mitigates against any perceived priced distortion and eliminates the irregularities associated with recharge PINS, vouchers, and cards.

“With Topit, MTN customers can buy airtime as low as one Naira and up to N3 million. It is also beneficial to retail partners and potential new partners as it provides ease of entry to start a recharge business while saving the cost of warehousing and inventory management,” Adebiyi said.

Published in Telecoms

The idea of giving everybody an unconditional, regular income has become increasingly popular in the last few years, partly because employment has become less secure and people fear that increasing automation may cause job losses across many sectors.

There are many arguments for and against basic income. Some are concerned with fairness and justice, but many are based on competing ideas about the potential effects. Some argue people would stop working and become dependent on payments, while others believe it would free people to spend time on useful activities like volunteering or caring, and that many wouldn’t work less because they wished to earn more or simply enjoyed it.

The only way to find out is to run pilot studies and measure the effects. To be sure that the effects are accurate, any study would have to meet as many of the criteria for a full basic income as possible: payments must be unconditional, cover the basic cost of living, and not be affected by other income. It is likely that effects would be different if basic income was universal and permanent, but pilot studies are usually small and short term.

People might be more likely to change the amount they work if the payments were not due to stop in two or three years. If everyone received payments, it could cause changes at a higher level. For instance, if people worked less, employers might have to increase wages. It is very difficult to measure these “spillover” effects if only a small number of people receive payments.

This means it is extremely challenging to design a study which could provide the evidence needed to decide whether basic income is a good idea. There are no programmes which meet all the criteria, but there are studies of schemes that meet some of them. We sought to find and objectively interrogate as many examples as we could. The programmes had to regularly give people money with no conditions attached, and meet at least one of the other criteria. They also had to be conducted in upper-middle or high-income countries.

Basic income-style schemes

We found eight programmes (or “interventions”) in North America and one in Iran (below). There were 27 studies on these, which included data on employment, education, health and social outcomes such as crime, as well as some evidence of spillover and higher-level effects. Some payments were universal and permanent, although not enough to cover basic living costs.

Basic income criteria met by the included programmes. Author provided

Five large studies of Negative Income Tax (NIT) – where people earning below a certain threshold received payments – were conducted in North America in the 1970s. For three to five years, low-income families were given enough money to live on with no conditions, but payments were reduced if they earned money.

The Ontario Basic Income Pilot began in 2018 but was cancelled by the new provincial government in 2019.

The Alaska Permanent Fund (APF) has given all residents (including children) a share of the state’s oil dividends annually since 1982.

A number of Native American tribes pay all tribal members dividends from casinos run on reservation land. They are paid annually, and young people receive childhood payments as a lump sum when they finish high school.

In 2010, the Iranian government introduced universal monthly payments to compensate for the removal of fuel subsidies. Initially, they were enough to live on, but the value was very quickly reduced by inflation.

Looking at the evidence

There was evidence on labour market activity for all the initiatives. Effects on men were mostly quite small, although one Alaskan study found that annual hours worked reduced by 11%. Women with young children and single parents reduced their hours by up to 33%, but these studies were in countries with no maternity pay. Women and self-employed men in Iran increased the amount they worked. Participants in Canadian studies reported that flexibility, security and being able to work alongside health issues, education, or caring responsibilities without losing benefits were highly valued.

Effects on health were inconsistent, with some studies showing no effect on outcomes. However, several studies reported a large positive effects in terms of birth weight, hospital admissions, adult and child mental health and infant obesity. Evidence from some studies suggested that fewer worries about money and having enough to eat contributed to better health. In some studies where people received payments as large lump sums, there were increases in deaths and substance abuse.

There were some large increases in the proportion of teenagers completing high school and improved educational performance in the negative income tax studies and in a tribal dividend study. Divorce rates did not change in the NIT studies.

There was a similar finding in a tribal dividend study which also revealed large improvements in parent-child and parental relationships. Mothers of young children spent less time in paid work but more time at home. People also reported spending more time caring for other relatives. Parents and teenagers in a tribal dividend study committed less crime, while immediately after receiving annual payments in Alaska, property crime decreased but substance-abuse related crime increased.

There is some tantalising evidence of spillover effects from several of the initiatives. In Alaska, there is a slight increase in men working after payments are made because the increase in spending means that there is higher demand for labour. There are reductions in mothers working and infant obesity, and it is likely that these are related. The projected savings on Alaskan health services are large.

In one Canadian programme, all residents were eligible for payments, although only 30% received any. Still, there was a large reduction in hospital admissions for accidents and mental health issues across the community, possibly because reduced financial stress led to less conflict and fewer mental health issues.

Changes like spending longer in education or reducing the incidence of low birth weight could have profound individual and social implications over the longer term. These factors are linked to higher incomes, better adult health, improved cognitive ability in older people and higher productivity.

None of the studies we looked at meet all the criteria for a basic income, so they can’t provide definitive evidence for its effects. However, they do provide evidence of how people respond to unconditional cash payments, and there are some fascinating pointers for the possible effects if basic income schemes were scaled up.

To understand the effects of basic income, future studies need to replicate it as closely as possible. In particular, large universal schemes are required to measure higher-level and spillover effects. Whatever the effects, it is likely that a basic income would have a transformative impact on society.The Conversation

 

Marcia Gibson, Investigator Scientist MRC/CSO Social & Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow

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

Published in World

In what seemed like the blink of an eye, Mozambique’s known natural gas reserves spiked from nearly nothing to over 165 tcf, placing it as the continent’s third biggest reserve holder

It has been almost exactly ten years since Anadarko drilled the well that would give Mozambique its first major gas find in over sixty years of mostly disappointing oil and gas exploration. Many wells followed that first offshore discovery in block 1 and further in ENI-operated block 4.

In what seemed like the blink of an eye, Mozambique’s known natural gas reserves spiked from nearly nothing to over 165 tcf, placing it as the continent’s third biggest reserve holder.

Just like that, one of Africa’s poorest countries was about to become one of the world’s biggest energy players. Well, not really just like that. In 2010, Mozambique had no know-how in oil and gas, no negotiation capabilities, understanding of the sector, no appropriate legal framework in place, nor human or financial capital to take advantage of this momentous thing that had just happened. A country that at the time could offer access to electricity to only 18% of its citizens, was suddenly endowed with enough natural gas to power half of Europe for a couple of decades and more.

Since then, much water has passed under the bridge and ink over paper. Presidents, ministers and corporate leaders have been replaced, licenses have changed hands, projects have been proposed, declined or approved, and now, more than ever, the promise of wealth seems close, but is it? Afterall, we are ten years in and no natural gas is flowing, no LNG is being produced or sold, and while a bit better off, at 27% of electricity penetration, most of the country is still in the dark. But that should not fool us, Mozambican leaders have learned much and more over the last decade, and despite some challenges, the country seems ready to take on a new stage of wealth and growth.

It was that learning curve that taught these leaders to seek out international expertise to support resource management training and legal framework development. On the one hand, the national oil company hired Wood Mackenzie to help it prepare for the responsibility to manage and sell its corresponding portion of the resources, which has resulted in the forming of a consortium with international oil and gas trader Vitol, in September last year. On the other, the government sought the support of more experienced energy producers and international partners, including the IMF or the World Bank. Just this month, Mozambique's President Filipe Nyusi met with Norway's Crown Prince Haakon and signed an agreement for support on natural gas resource management.

It was this concerted capacity growth that culminated in the new Petroleum Law of 2014 and on the successful bidding round for exploration blocks that took place the same year, a move that took advantage of the enormous attention the country’s acreage was receiving.

This self-actualization process combined with close, albeit sometimes slow, negotiations with the international oil companies that are leading these development efforts have resulted in final investment decisions worth dozens of billions of dollars for the development of liquefied natural gas plants in Mozambique.

Enormous Economic Opportunity

As it stands, Total's 12.9mn t/yr Mozambique LNG project (which it took over from Anadarko) is expected to enter production in 2024. The latest news indicates that ENI’s 3.4mn t/yr Coral South FLNG project is on schedule to come online in 2022. And just last week, the Mozambican Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy said it expected FID from the ExxonMobil-led 15.2mn t/yr Rovuma LNG scheme by June 2020. The project is expected to start operating by 2025.

The implications of this are tremendous. Just in foreign direct investment, Total’s USD$25 billion investment in the LNG plant amounts to more than two times Mozambique’s current GDP. Not to mention the trickle-down effect on job creation, supply and associated services industries, etc, and that’s just one of the projects to be developed in an area that is far from properly explored. Together, the three projects are estimated to bring up to USD$54 billion in investment over the next few years.

Further, taking into account the relatively low domestic needs for natural gas in Mozambique, these three projects alone could place the country among the five biggest LNG exporters in the world, up there with Qatar, Australia, Malaysia and the United States.

However, if the domestic needs are small now, they are expected to quickly rise. The government has wisely negotiated for part of the production to be diverted to the domestic market, which can be used for power generation, to feed a gas-based industry of fertilizers and petrochemicals, to fuel homes or even to export via pipeline to neighbouring countries.

Already, the government has secured multilateral financing for a 400MW gas-fired power plant and transmission line to the capital Maputo, which will draw on national gas production and will dramatically contribute to improve power reliability in the capital.

To help accelerate the industry’s development, Mozambican officials were at the Subsea Expo in Aberdeen to showcase the country’s opportunities to North Sea companies. The aim is to secure a well-established supply chain that will support a streamlined development of the industry, as well as bring expertise into the country and promote the development of indigenous companies and workforce.

All these developments are making investors excited and analysts optimistic. Rating agency Fitch forecasts that natural gas production in Mozambique will climb 26.5% per year in the run up to 2029 and that will fuel an average 12.4% GDP growth per year throughout the decade.

These are fantastic news for a country that has suffered so dramatically with the combined effect of the Idai and Kenneth cyclones last year, which affected much of the economic activity and stranded GDP growth in 2019 at 1.9%. Already, the African development Bank sees a rebound in 2020, forecasting a 5.8% growth for 2020.

And that is another reason the development of Mozambique’s natural gas resources will be paramount for the future of the country. It will allow for the development of a more diversified and resilient economy, that will be less subject to external shocks.

Cautionary Tales

The landscape is so momentous for Mozambique at this point in time, that it is of paramount importance to get things right. We have had too many African stories of grand plans gone wrong and we do not need another one. The future of the country is at stake and that of its people.

So far, Mozambican leaders have shown resolve to push forward suitable policies and facilitate the industry’s development, but good governance and civil society participation have been shown again and again to be fundamental pillars of successful resource management.

Already, the country battles violence in its northern region, in the site where one of the LNG plants is to be developed. Armed insurgents, allegedly with an extremist religious agenda, have been attacking small villages in the region and foreign workers. The operating companies have requested the government to send in the army to help control the situation. Some reports indicate that some of these insurgents come from extremely poor backgrounds and have been radicalized based on the idea that the oil and gas companies are there to steal their resources and that no one will benefit. Here is where the need to integrate the population comes into play, not just through local content policies and by creating employment opportunities for them, but also by educating them about what is being developed, what to expect and how that will affect and benefit them.

This needs to be combined with strict transparency and resource management policies, upheld by institutions with the authority to implement regulation. This month, the Mozambican Centre for Public Integrity indicated that the country could have lost a considerable amount of money simply for failing to certify the real costs of natural gas projects declared by the companies in the period prior to 2015.

These events hurt the public image of the industry and spur social unrest at a time when the country should be focusing on maximizing the positive effects of this sector for the economy and ensuring that every Mozambican stands to gain from the country’s wealth.

Allies like Russia and the US have offered to help with the security situation. Others have offered cooperation in resource management, and their support should be welcomed but, it is on the shoulders of Mozambican leaders that the responsibility of a lifetime falls to make the best decisions for the future of their country and their people. They cannot let them down.

 

NJ Ayuk is Executive Chairman of the African Energy Chamber, CEO of pan-African corporate law conglomerate Centurion Law Group, and the author of several books about the oil and gas industry in Africa, including Billions at Play: The Future of African Energy and Doing Deals.

Published in Business

The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) said it would rake in four trillion naira as tax revenue from the extractive sector of the Nigerian economy in the 2020 fiscal year.

The FIRS made this known in a statement issued by Abdullahi Ahmad, Director, Communications and Liaison Department in the service in Abuja on Tuesday.

The statement said the Executive Chairman, FIRS, Mr Muhammad Nami, disclosed this when a team of the Nigerian office of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) paid him a courtesy visit.

Nami solicited the support of the OECD in stemming the tax evasion scheme of oil majors and multinationals operating in Nigeria through the illegal act of transfer pricing under which these foreign companies dodged tax and transfer their profit offshore.

The FIRS boss underscored the need for capacity-building, information sharing, data interpretation, usage and related technical synergy with the OECD in order to meet tax revenue targets in the extractive industry and the newly emergent Digital Economy.

He observed that revolution in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) had made physical filing of tax returns obsolete.

Nami, however, stated that ICT had also made tax collection more complex, especially in trans-border trade and trans-continental commerce.

According to him, in such trade big players like Amazon, Google, facebook, Alibaba and other e-commerce corporations do big business around, drive the digital economy and yet countries find it difficult to take due tax from the huge economic activities these online giants engage in.

“This is more so for developing countries like Nigeria where our people buy luxury goods more and more online while these big online stores don’t pay any tax to us.

“The complexity of the digital economy to the tax authorities also extents to the telecommunication and financial sectors, including the emerging trades and the exchange carried out using digital currency,” he said.

Similarly, Nami when he received the Comptroller-General (CG), Federal Fire Service, Dr Liman Alhaji Ibrahim, commended the service for its prompt response during a fire incident that occurred at its building in 2019.

He called for more synergy and collaboration between the FIRS and the Fire Service.

Published in Bank & Finance
...Charges privileged citizens to emulate Ephraim Inyangeyen
 
A widow, Madam Grace Tom, aged 104 years has received keys to a fully furnished two bedroom bungalow from the Akwa Ibom State First Lady, Her Excellency, Dr Mrs Martha Emmanuel.
 
Commissioning the bungalow today, Tuesday March 3, in Ikot Ebiere, Onna Local Government Area, Dr Martha Emmanuel commended the donor of the building, Mr Ephraim Inyangeyen, the Honourable Commissioner for Works, for the kind gesture and charged other well placed and privileged citizens to emulate him.
 
The Wife of the Governor who thanked Mr Inyangeyen for donating more buildings to her pet project, the Family Empowerment and Youth Reorientation Path Initiative, FEYReP, to boost the Shelter of Hope programme of providing accommodation for distressed widows across the State, prayed God to replenishing his source and grant peace, health and divine preservation for the beneficiary.
 
Earlier in the day, the First Lady also commissioned a fully furnished two bedroom bungalow for another widow and mother of four, at Ibesit Anwa Udo, in Oruk Anam Local Government Area, equally built and donated by Commissioner Inyangeyen.
 
Mrs. Alice Joseph who received the keys to her apartment from the First Lady thanked God Almighty for using Mr inyangeyen and his wife, Mrs Ime, to provide shelter for her and the family in what she described as  being like in a dream, which however is pleasant reality. She lauded the Wife of the Governor for the shelter of Hope vision and for coming to her aid.
 
On his path, Mr Inyangeyen expressed appreciation to Dr Martha for selecting Mrs. Alice as a beneficiary of the new home. He disclosed that, the Centenarian Widow, Madam Tom was his care-giver, when he was a child, as his mother used to leave him under her nurture as a nanny. He thanked God for keeping her alive and granting him the grace to show appreciation for her kindness whilst she still lives.
 
Inyangeyen promised to support the shelter of Hope in fonating more buildings in other Local Government Areas to support the First Lady's vision and thanked Governor Udom Emmanuel for giving him opportunity to serve in his administration.
 
It will be recalled that, Mr Inyangeyen in 2019 donated a first building to a Widow in Ikot Ekpene under the auspices of FEYReP and another 3 bedroom bungalow for a family whose Thatch roofed house was gutted by fire in Onna.
 
Mr inyangeyen however called on other people of means and milk of human kindness to join hands with the First Lady's Shelter of Hope by investing in the project to make the home for impoverished widows go round.
 
At ibesit Anwa Udo, The chairman of Oruk Anam, Prince Ubong Idiong
appreciated the kind gesture of the Works Commissioner and announced a donation of 200 thousand to the Mrs Alice José to revive her business.
 
Other dignitaries who graced the occasion include wife of the donor and Coordinator of FEYREP, Mrs Ime Ephraim Inyangeyen, Wife of the Speaker of The Akwa Ibom state House of Assembly and President of Legislators Wives Association, LEWA, Mrs Itohowo Aniekan Bassey,  Wife of the Leader of the AKHA, Mrs. Udo Krieran and the Honourable Commissioner for Women Affairs and Agriculture, Dr Glory Edet among others.
Published in World
The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Tuesday confirmed that their 2020 Spring Meetings slated for April 17 to April 19 in Washington DC would now hold in “virtual format’’.

What this means is that instead of delegates converging physically in Washington, they would now link up from their various locations through video, audio and text channels.

The announcement came in a joint statement signed by President of the World Bank Group, Mr David Malpass, and the Managing Director of IMF, Mrs Kristalina Georgieva.

Malpass and Georgieva hinged the decision on concerns about the fast-spreading Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the “human tragedy surrounding it’’.

Held at the World Bank and IMF headquarters in the U.S capital, the spring meetings usually brought together government officials, business leaders, representatives civil society, journalists and observers from around the world.

“Given growing health concerns related to the virus, the management of the IMF and world bank group and their Executive Boards have agreed to implement a joint plan to adapt the 2020 IMF-World Bank spring meetings to a virtual format.

“ Our goal is to serve our membership effectively, while ensuring the health and safety of spring meetings participants and staff.

“We remain fully committed to maintaining a productive dialogue with our stakeholders and will leverage our IT-related and virtual connection capabilities to the fullest, to hold our essential policy consultations with the membership.

“We will also continue to share IMF and World Bank analyses.

“With this adapted format, we are confident that our member countries will be able to effectively engage on pressing global economic issues at these spring meetings,” they said.

Consequently, registration for all categories of participants had been suspended and all previous confirmations cancelled, the IMF said in a mail to intending participants.

“Official delegates who will participate in the official sessions will receive further instructions from the Secretary and from the office of their Executive Director of the respective institutions,’’ it added.

Published in World

A major international airline, Emirates, on Tuesday, asked staff to take unpaid leave for up to a month at a time due to the rapidly spreading coronavirus that has led to flight cancellations around the world.

Emirates have so far cancelled flights to Iran, Bahrain and to most of China because of the virus, and countries around the world have placed strict restrictions on the entry of foreigners.

According to its Chief Operating Officer, Adel al-Redha, the airline has more resources than it needs as a result of cutting frequencies or cancelling flights to some destinations.

“Considering the availability of additional resources and the fact that many employees want to utilise their leave, we have provided our employees with the option to apply for voluntary unpaid leave up to one month at a time,’’ he said.

Emirates Group, the state-owned holding company that counts the airline among its assets, has asked staff to consider taking paid and unpaid leave as it seeks to manage a measurable slowdown in its business.

The group had more than 100,000 employees, including more than 21,000 cabin crew and 4,000 pilots, at the end of March 2019, the end of its last financial year.

Major concerts and events in the UAE, an air transit centre, including tourism and business hub Dubai, have been cancelled or postponed as the coronavirus spreads in the Gulf.

Earlier, the airline industry’s largest global body IATA urged Middle Eastern Governments to provide support to airlines as they try to manage the impact of the outbreak.

Published in Travel & Tourism
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