Hainan, the southern island province of China, has been attracting people from around the globe with its sandy beaches, coconut trees, and year-round sunshine. The island is becoming a hotspot this year due to China's plans to build a free trade port with the highest level of openness.
With a plan aiming at further consolidating the foundation of the real economy and enhancing economic competitiveness, a free trade port system will be "basically established" in Hainan by 2025, becoming "more mature" by 2035, with a focus on the liberalization and facilitation of trade, investment, transport and the flow of talent, capital and data.
Market entities will enjoy a batch of benefits in investment, tax and market access when doing business in the Hainan free trade port, said Shen Xiaoming, governor of Hainan, at a press conference Monday.
Streamlined procedures will be available to companies, with license application and government approval not required for industries that are not prohibited by law or mandatory standards.
Foreign investment will be subject to a management system combining pre-establishment national treatment and a negative list designated for the free trade port, further reducing restrictions and prohibitions on the basis of free trade zones, Shen said.
Domestic firms registered in the free trade port will be encouraged to raise funds by issuing shares abroad. The free trade port will also offer tax benefits for firms operating in sectors such as tourism, modern services, and new and high technology by exempting enterprise income tax for the income from their direct investment overseas.
The southern island province will further open the tertiary industry by significantly reducing restrictions on market access. Efforts will be made to deepen opening up in the sectors such as shipping, telecommunication, business services, finance, medical care, education, culture and sports, said Shen.
China will support free trade of commodities by granting zero-tariff treatment in an orderly manner and remove non-tariff barriers such as permits and quotas, Vice Commerce Minister Wang Shouwen told a press conference on Monday.
In the first stage, before 2025, certain goods will be exempt from import duties, import value-added tax and consumption tax, while after 2025, import duty exemptions will apply on all imported goods other than those listed in the catalog of imported taxable commodities, said Vice Finance Minister Zou Jiayi.
A pioneering negative list will be formed this year for cross-border service trade at the port to facilitate cross-border delivery, overseas consumption and the flow of people. Cross-border service trade not on the list will be granted free entry into the port.
To bolster consumption in the area, the port will further relax the annual tax-free shopping quota for travelers by raising the limit of purchase from 30,000 yuan (about 4,230 United States dollars) to 100,000 yuan per person each year and expanding the categories of duty-free goods, Zou said.
The Hainan free trade port will take the lead in expanding the opening-up of the financial service sector, which entails support for setting up trading venues for financial products related to energy, shipping and commodities, said Pan Gongsheng, vice governor of the People's Bank of China.
China will also strengthen financial support to promote the scale of industrial agglomeration and enhance the industrial competitiveness of major industries in Hainan, as well as innovating and developing trade finance, consumer finance, green finance and technology finance.
Financial policies will serve cross-border trade, Pan said, adding that the capital exchange for trade in goods and services should be highly facilitated, and the policies regulating new trade patterns, such as offshore trade and entrepot trade, should be improved.
Concerns that the Hainan free trade port will undermine Hong Kong's status as a global financial, trading and shipping center were dismissed Monday by Lin Nianxiu, deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission.
With different orientations and priority industries, Hainan and Hong Kong are more complementary than competitive, Lin said at a press conference.
The country will work to promote the joint development of Hainan and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area and ensure Hong Kong's long-term prosperity and stability, Lin noted.
The free trade port greatly stresses environmental protection in the process of its development, strictly restricting real estate expansion, said Liu Cigui, Party chief of Hainan, citing the importance of building a diversified modern industrial system with limited land resources.
The province has also made efforts to achieve the air-quality goal for 2030, such as using clean energy. Sales of oil-fueled automobiles will be banned starting 2030, and the use of non-biodegradable plastic products will be prohibited from the end of 2020, Liu said, adding that the Hainan free trade port welcomes investors and talents all over the world to share the opportunity of China's development and the fruits of China's reform and opening-up.
Mallam Manzuma Issa, a former Chairman of the Ilorin Branch of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), on Thursday said financial autonomy for state judiciary would ensure rapid improvement in justice delivery.
According to him, the signing of Order 10 will bring efficient and effective service delivery.
“I think over time, the challenge of judiciary at every level is inadequate funding in the system.
“I think the story at the federal level has changed because money due to the judiciary is paid to the National Judicial Commission (NJC) for onward disbursement to the head of various courts.
“But the story has not changed at the state level; dilapidated building, lack of computers and libraries and other facilities are still major challenges.
“With the signing of the Executive Order 10 by the president on May 20, 2020, we believe as the funding of the system improves, there will radical transformation in the system and rapid improvement that would bring efficient and effective service delivery.
” What the governors are saying is that Nigeria is a federation and even if the Section 5 of the constitution gives the president the power to defend the constitution, it has to do with the federal judiciary, not the state judiciary.
“In an ideal democracy, this is right. But governors also would have to implement the provisions of the constitution.
“Governor should have power to implement that section of the provision as it regards the state judiciary.
“The provisions of the constitution are mandatory. It does not need approval. It is self implemented.
“In a federation, the money due to the state must be paid into its account and it is the responsibility of the governor to disburse accordingly because funding is the responsibility of the governor.
“In those days, the judiciary used to be on the first line charge from the consolidated revenue account of the state, the money due to the judiciary is credited to the account of the head of court for effective running of the system.
“But unfortunately today, we are not running an ideal democracy.
” There is nothing wrong if the president is funding the federal judiciary and the state governors are funding those in states by virtue of the 1999 constitution,” he said.
Edited By: Mufutau Ojo (NAN))
Speakers of State Legislatures in Nigeria have lauded President Muhammadu Buhari for signing the Executive Order granting financial autonomy to legislatures and judiciaries of all states.
In a statement through their chairman, who is also the Speaker of Lagos State Assembly, Mr Mudashiru Obasa, the Speakers described the development as the best Sallah gift from the president.
The News Agency of Nigeria recalls that the president, on Friday evening , signed an Executive Order 10, granting financial autonomy to state legislatures and judiciaries.
NAN reports that the executive order came months after Obasa had led a team of his colleagues on a visit to the president where he made the demand.
The Executive Order 10 signed by president Buhari makes it compulsory for the 36 states to always include the allocations of the legislature and the judiciary in the first-line charge of their budgets.
The order also made it mandatory for the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF) to deduct the amounts due to state legislature and judiciary from monthly allocations of states that refused to implement the order.
“This is the best gift President Muhammadu Buhari has given the legislative arms of state governments at this Sallah.
“This is coming at the end of the Ramadan; it means God truly answered the prayers of the member state legislatures, through the president.
“No doubt, this order will further make state legislatures independent of the executive arm of their various governments.
“It will also boost healthy competitions among state legislatures in pursuit of advancements and developments,” they said.
They said the committee set up by the president had the mandate to ensure the implementation of the financial autonomy in line with section 121(3) of the country’s constitution as amended, just as they commended members of the implementation committee for putting in their best.
The Speakers urged beneficiaries of the Executive Order to see it as a further push to unite the country, and for them to play roles for the growth, peace and progress of the nation.
They thanked the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), led by Gov. Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto State, for its support during the events and meetings leading to a final decision of the President.
They also commended the Attorney-General of the Federal AGF), Abubakar Malami, for his roles that eventually resulted in the signing of the order by President Buhari.
Edited By: Chioma (NAN) Ugboma
President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday signed into law the Executive Order Number 10 of 2020 for the implementation of Financial Autonomy of State Legislature and State Judiciary.
Dr Umar Gwandu, Special Assistant to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice on Media and Public Relations disclosed this on Friday in Abuja.
The President signed the Executive Order based on the powers vested in him as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria under Section 5 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as Amended).
This extends to the execution and maintenance of laws made by the National Assembly (including but not limited to Section 121(3) of the 1999 Constitution (as Amended), which guarantee financial autonomy of the State Legislature and State Judiciary.
He noted that a Presidential Implementation Committee was constituted to fashion out strategies and modalities for the implementation of financial autonomy for the State Legislature and State Judiciary.
This is in compliance with section 121(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as Amended).
“The amendment took into consideration all other applicable laws, instruments, conventions and regulations, which provide for financial autonomy at the State tier of Government’’.
According to him, `the implementation of financial autonomy of the State Legislature and State Judiciary will strengthen the institutions at that tier of Government and make them more independent and accountable’.
This would be in line with the tenets of democracy as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as Amended).
“The Order Provides that, `the Accountant-General of the Federation shall by this Order and any such other Orders, Regulations or Guidelines as may be issued by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, authorise the deduction from source in the course of Federation Accounts Allocation from the money allocated to any State of the Federation that fails to release allocation meant for the State Legislature and State Judiciary in line with the financial autonomy guaranteed by Section 121(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as Amended)”.
“Based on the Executive Order at the commencement of this Order for implementation of financial autonomy for State Legislature and State Judiciary in line with section 121(3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as Amended), all States of the Federation shall include the allocations of the two Arms of Government in their Appropriation Laws.
“Article 6 (1) also provides that `notwithstanding the provisions of this Executive Order, in the first three years of its implementation, there shall be special extraordinary capital allocations for the Judiciary to undertake capital development of State Judiciary Complexes, High Court Complexes, Sharia Court of Appeal, Customary Court of Appeal and Court Complexes of other Courts befitting the status of Courts’’.
Edited By: Sadiya Hamza (NAN)
The economy of Finland has hit bottom but a gradual upswing is already under way, the OP Financial Group said Tuesday.
Economists at OP, one of the largest financial companies in Finland, projected in a press release that the country's economy will contract by six percent this year, and will rebound to 3.5 percent growth in 2021.
The forecast is based on the premise that the restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic will be lifted gradually, but the virus and the threat of its further spread will impact on people's lives even next year.
In 2020, the country's economy will be hit the hardest by the downward trend in private spending and exports, and the levels of investment and inventories are expected to drop considerably due to the pandemic. However, the decrease in gross domestic product (GDP) will be alleviated by reducing imports and growing demand in the public sector, the financial group said.
"The Finnish economy is about to rebound again soon after a steep crash. The second quarter will hit bottom, and GDP would be higher in July-October. The rise will begin gradually," said Reijo Heiskanen, OP's chief economist, in the press release.
Affected by the pandemic, private spending in Finland decreased by 20 percent at the end of March compared to the early part of this year. However, as a result of the "collapse" in spending, the household saving ratio has risen sharply.
"Consumption may recover thanks to pent-up demand and increasing saving, even though purchasing power will be hit by declining employment," the OP said.
Due to structural reasons, the decrease in the Finnish economy will not be steep, and the country will recover more slowly than the eurozone or the United States, noted Heiskanen.
The OP's economists warned that there is still "unexceptionally great uncertainty," which relates to the scale of the collapse, the timing of recovery and the long-term growth prospects.
"It is wise to play safe in economic policy but otherwise keep an open mind about what the outcome of this crisis will be," Heiskanen suggested.
Financial conditions worsened dramatically for people who experienced job loss or reduced hours in March as COVID-19 swept across the United States, according to a report released Thursday by the Federal Reserve Board.
In April, fewer adults reported that they were at least doing okay financially six months earlier, said the latest Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households.
A smaller supplemental survey showed that 43 percent of adults were "doing okay" financially, and 29 percent were "living comfortably," down from 75 percent and 36 percent, respectively, in the fall of 2019.
"The survey data show that early in the public health crisis, a larger fraction of Americans were facing financial hardship than in the fall of 2019," said Federal Reserve Board Governor Michelle W. Bowman.
The declines in self-reported financial well-being were concentrated on those who lost a job or had their work hours cut, the report showed.
Among adults not experiencing a job loss or reduction in hours, 76 percent were at least okay financially in April.
Among those who experienced a job loss or hours reduction, however, 51 percent indicated that they were doing at least okay financially in April, whereas 48 percent were "finding it difficult to get by" or "just getting by."
Some 19 percent of all adults reported either losing a job or experiencing a reduction in work hours in March, the report showed, while noting that some people took on new or additional employment in the month.
Nine in 10 people who were furloughed or lost a job said that their employer indicated that they would return to their job at some point, according to the report.
However, in general, people were not told specifically when to expect to return to work.
The report also showed that consistent with the employment declines in March, many people have experienced income declines. Twenty-three percent of all adults, and 70 percent of those who lost a job or had their hours reduced, said their income in March was lower than in February.
The survey was released one day after U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the COVID-19 crisis raises "long-term concerns," and warned that a prolonged recession and weak recovery could lead to an extended period of low productivity growth and stagnant incomes.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported a staggering 20.5-million job loss in April, which erased a decade of job gains since the global financial crisis and pushed the unemployment rate to a record 14.7 percent.
Powell said the COVID-19-induced job crisis has disproportionately weighed on lower-income households and families.
Teasing data from the survey, he said among people who were working in February, almost 40 percent of those in households making less than 40,000 dollars a year lost a job in March.
"This reversal of economic fortune has caused a level of pain that is hard to capture in words, as lives are upended amid great uncertainty about the future," Powell said, adding that he expects unemployment to peak next month.
Demystifying Financial Inclusion through USSD
News Agency of Nigeria
Global disruptions caused by the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have made individuals, organiastions and countries to think out of the box to be able to survive in the various aspects of life. It has also made them to make necessary adjustments.
In Nigeria, in an effort to curb the spread of the pandemic, President Muhammadu Buhari on March 30 locked down the Federal Capital Territory and Lagos and Ogun states.
The five-week lockdown brought to the fore the importance of the cashless banking policy initiated and implemented by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and made many citizens and other residents to embrace the initiative more.
The policy was introduced to reduce the amount of physical cash in circulation thereby encourage the use of electronic platforms for settlement or payment for goods and services.
Cashless policy introduced by the apex bank in December 2011 and kick-started in Lagos in January 2012, had been greeted with mixed feelings due to lack of deep understanding of its functionality.
However, with the closure of financial institutions during the lockdown, banks customers resorted to the use of Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) and other online financial platforms as advised by financial institutions.
A great benefit of going cashless is increased security for both vendors and customers. Cash has long been the target of thieves, and its removal has the potential to reduce crimes.
Cashless payments reduce errors and the cost of labour involved in processing cash.
The expenditure incurred in printing and transportation of currency notes is also reduced with cashless banking.
According to the CBN, cashless policy was introduced in line with the nation’s Vision 2020 goal of being one of the top 20 economies. It is aimed at driving development and modernisation of the Nigerian payment system as well as driving financial inclusion.
In line with the apex bank cashless banking initiative, First Bank of Nigeria Ltd., in 2015 launched *894# USSD mobile banking channel through which various banking activities are carried out on a mobile phone.
Analyst are convinced that the USSD banking platform supported many Nigerians during the lockdown to carry out various cashless transactions and services from the comfort and safety of their homes amid COVID-19.
A public affairs commentator, Mrs Obiageli Elemuo, says the banking channel promoted financial inclusion deeply during the lockdown.
She observes that many Nigerians who hitherto were not comfortable using the channel, for fear of fraud, resorted to using to it as a substitute for a physical banking hall.
She is of the opinion that even with banks’ re-opening of banking halls following gradual ease of the lockdown, many Nigerians are still opting for the channel so as to reduce handling of currency notes for fear of contracting COVID-19 through the handling.
Elemuo believes that the *894# USSD banking service is quick, convenient and easy to use, and gives instant notifications, thereby re-assuring customers.
According to Mr Chuma Ezirim, FirstBank’s Group Executive, e-Business and Retail Products, over 9.5 million customers are active on the platform at present.
He describes the service launched in January 2015 as user-friendly, noting that the channel can be used across the four major GSM network operators in the country without the use of the internet.
“Customers are able to enjoy a wide range of banking services using the bank’s *894# USSD banking.
“These services include fund transfers, data and airtime top-up for self and third-party individuals, quick balance enquiry and bank verification number enquiry,’’ he says.
The official says FirstBank is satisfied with the impact so far made by the platform.
“At FirstBank, we are excited about the impact our innovative solutions are making in the Nigerian payment landscape.
“Our *894# USSD banking has been a viable platform through which we take our banking services to the doorstep of our customers, right on the palm of their hands, without the limitation of an internet connection,” Ezirim says.
He gives the assurance that the bank will remain committed to creating avenues to enable Nigerians to carry out various financial activities conveniently and securely.
A customer of FirstBank, Mr Moses Igbrude, describes USSD banking as amazing, saying that the banking product helped him much during the lockdown.
He urges service providers to come up with initiatives that will sustain their operations and the nation in the midst of COVID-19 as well as make them stronger after the pandemic.
Another customer, Mr Ugochukwu Okoroma, believes that USSD banking promoted financial inclusion during the lockdown.
According to him, some Nigerians, who were compelled by the lockdown to use the channel, found it interesting and are willing to continue with it.
“It has been wonderful. I cannot remember the last time I visited the banking hall. I am enjoying the product very well,’’ he says.
Okoroma, however, advised banks to secure the platform adequately against hackers, adding that they should strengthen their complaint frameworks in case of failed transactions. (END)
***If used, please credit the writer and the agency*
The Lagos Business School’s Custom Executive Education has been ranked number one in Africa, and among the top 50 in the world by the Financial Times of London (FT).
The school’s Head, Corporate Communications, Aderayo Bankole, disclosed this in a statement made available to newsmen in Lagos on Monday.
Bankole said it was the 14th consecutive year the school was featuring on the list.
“The combined ranking which evaluates the performance of top 50 business schools across the world in the areas of Open Enrolment and Custom Executive Education puts Lagos Business School (LBS) at the 47th position.
“On the Custom ranking table, LBS is the 1st in Africa.
“It holds the 41st spot globally, moving seven places up from its 48th position in 2019,” the statement read.
Commenting on the ranking, Prof. Enase Okonedo, LBS Dean, described it as a laudable achievement.
“We are incredibly proud to be recognised by the Financial Times of London for the 14th year in a row.
“At LBS, we actively seek and remain conscious of the unique needs of organisations and their executives; our Executive Education programmes are designed to address them.
“This ranking comes at a time when the world is witnessing an unprecedented pandemic challenge, and its attendant fallout.
LBS is the graduate business school of Pan-Atlantic University.
It offers academic programmes , executive programmes and short courses (customised to specific company needs, as well as open-enrolment courses) in management.
LBS objective is to develop responsible leaders who are solving Africa’s social and institutional business problems.
Its offerings have been accredited globally and ranked among the best in Africa, as it systematically strives to improve the practice of management on the continent.
Edited By: Oluyinka Fadare/Oluwole Sogunle (NAN)
It will be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had issued a directive restricting the movement of people – excluding those on essential service - with effect from 11pm on Monday, March 30, 2020, in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos and Ogun States, as a response to the corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Subsequently, the Minister of Finance, Budget and Planning and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria obtained Presidential approval to permit critical financial services to function during this period.
Consequently, relevant security agencies have been requested to grant passage to critical staff of these institutions to enable essential and strategic financial transactions to go undisrupted during the period of the lockdown. These institutions include:
i. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN);
ii. Deposit Money Banks (DMBs);
iii. The Nigeria Interbank Settlement System (NIBSS) Plc;
iv. Switching companies,
v. Mobile money operators,
vi. Payment solution service providers.
In view of the ongoing restrictions and in order to check further spread of the corona virus disease, the CBN hereby urges the general public to limit their use of cash and avail themselves of the use of alternative payment channels such as mobile banking, Internet banking, Mobile money, Point of Sale, and USSD. The public is therefore assured that financial institutions will remain operational during this period and therefore should guard against panic withdrawals from their banks. We also urge all Nigerians to adhere strictly to the movement restrictions and follow stipulated guidelines by the Federal Ministry of Health, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and other relevant health agencies of government to curb possible spread of the virus in Nigeria.
A Financial Expert, Mr Ahmed Abolaji, has advocated for massive investment in entrepreneurship development, skill acquisition and vocation to boost diversification of the nation’s economy.
Abolaji, the Chief Executive Officer, Grassroot Alliance Consult, told the Nigeria News Agency in Omu-Aran, Kwara, that such investment would help actualise the desired self sufficiency among the citizenry.
He said promotion of Small Scale Enterprises (SMEs) would also help to reduce unemployment, youth restiveness and the prevalent spate of insecurity in the country.
According to him, there is urgent need for stakeholders in the economy to explore other key sectors for solution to the nation’s socio-economic and security challenges.
He identified continuous training on entrepreneurship development, vocation and skills as very crucial to achieving a non-oil dependent economy.
“Such massive investment in entrepreneurship development would assist to fast track and promote the Federal Government’s policy aimed at diversifying from oil based economy to self-reliance.
“There is the need to tap into the opportunities and advantages in the SMEs to transform the economy.
“For emergence of new entrepreneurs, our youths need to be trained on how to access funds from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Bank of Industry (BOI) and other relevant financial institutions.
“Such training will not only help the youths in sourcing for funds for their businesses but also improve their income generating capacities.
“The framework offered through the training would also ensure the survival and sustenance of the numerous SMEs within the targeted areas,” he said.
Abolaji also undrtscored the need for Public Private Partnership (PPP) in alignment with the Federal Government policy thrust on poverty alleviation with major emphasis on SMEs development.
“The pursuit of economic development is an important goal of many developing economies and Nigeria cannot be an exception.
“Small and Medium Scale Enterprises have proven to be a major intervention in resolving the problems of poverty and unemployment in most developing economies.
“SMEs remain the catalyst for the economic growth and development of the people at the grassroots,’’ he said.
The financial expert listed some challenges hindering entrepreneurship and the development of SMEs as inadequate financial support, poor management, lack of training, insufficient profit and low demand for products and services.
He charged the three tiers of government to provide an enabling environment for SMEs, skills acquisition and vocation to thrive in the country.
Edited By: Ifeyinwa Omowole/Muhammad Suleiman Tola