Items filtered by date: Thursday, 19 September 2019
Iranian Central Bank (CBI) Head, Abdolnaser Hemmati, on Wednesday said the country is planning to evade American economic sanctions by switching entirely away from the dollar to national currencies in mutual trade and by bypassing SWIFT.
 
“Accordingly, we are moving toward using alternative payment systems and conducting our business through national currencies.
 
“Such steps have been discussed with Turkey and Russia,’’ Hemmati said.
 
Separately, the CBI chief said that his country has issued a proposal to Russia to use alternative payment systems in trade with the entire Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).
 
He noted that such measures would effectively render SWIFT useless for the country.
 
SWIFT, an international messaging network for communications between banks, announced its ban on Iranian financial institutions after the U.S. targeted them with sanctions in November 2018.
 
The network said that this was done in order to preserve the global stability of the system.
 
It said that the decision was preceded by Washington threatening to impose sanctions on SWIFT itself if it would not cut ties with Iran.
 
The U.S. imposed sanctions against the Iranian economy’s energy, banking, and shipping sectors following its withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
 
Washington also threatened to impose sanctions against any entity dealing with Iran, including from the EU.
 
In a bid to preserve the deal with Iran, the European Union developed a special mechanism called INSTEX that would allow for conducting business with the country without falling under U.S. sanctions.
 
However, Tehran was not entirely satisfied with it as it failed to alleviate Iranian oil trade issues.
 
Iran has called on Brussels to improve INSTEX, threatening to abandon the JCPOA.
 
In May, Tehran began to gradually roll-back on its commitments under the accord, citing the lack of progress in improving the INSTEX mechanism.
 
The international SWIFT network banned Iranian banks from its system soon after the U.S. imposed sanctions against the country in November 2018.
 
The ban was preceded by Washington’s threats to slap sanctions on the financial network too if it were to continue working with the Islamic Republic’s financial institutions.
Published in Bank & Finance

Nearly two dozen U.S. lobbying groups have joined forces to try to rein in U.S. President Donald Trump’s power to unilaterally impose tariffs amid growing concern about the negative economic impact of his trade policies.

Led by the National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC), the groups on Wednesday said they had formed the Tariff Reform Coalition to urge Congress to wrest back greater control over trade policy and increase its oversight of the president’s use of tariffs.

Trump, who has dubbed himself “Tariff Man,” has imposed or planned tariffs on steel, aluminum and nearly all $500 billion in products imported from China each year, as he pursues an “America First” policy aimed at rebalancing U.S. trade ties.

NFTC President Rufus Yerxa said the U.S. Constitution gave Congress the power to regulate commerce, and lawmakers should ensure that tariffs were used only in exceptional circumstances.

“Not since the 1930s has our country relied so heavily on tariffs in an attempt to pick winners in the U.S. market while overlooking the broader consequences for other industries and our economy as a whole,” he said in a statement.

The 23 groups outlined their concerns in a letter to the two congressional committees that oversee foreign trade, the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee.

“It is clear that many of the Administration’s tariff actions over the past two years have had significant collateral effects on domestic prices and have led to extensive retaliation against our exports,” the groups wrote, warning that measures still under consideration could inflict further harm.

The letter was signed by large U.S. trade associations, including the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the National Retail Federation, the Association of Global Automakers, and the American International Automobile Dealers Association.

“It is clear that many of the Administration’s tariff actions over the past two years have had significant collateral effects on domestic prices and have led to extensive retaliation against our exports,” the groups wrote


, warning that measures still under consideration could inflict further harm.

The initiative comes as frustration has grown on both sides of the political aisle about the president’s use of unilateral measures to impose tariffs, often citing “national security concerns,” and to conclude trade agreements with little to no consultation with Congress.

Trump administration officials insist the tariffs on China are paid by the Chinese, but U.S. farmers, retailers, manufacturers and others say the duties are taking a toll on their industries. The measures have also repeatedly roiled financial markets.

The groups urged lawmakers to carry out a robust review of the president’s policies, and said it stood ready to work on legislation that would curb his authority.

U.S. lawmakers are considering several pieces of legislation that would limit Trump’s authority under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. Trump has used the law to impose the tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, and to threaten car tariffs against Japan and Europe.

Representative Kevin Brady, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, said Congress wanted to maximize its role in trade policy, but there was no consensus on how to do that.

At the same time, he said lawmakers agreed on the need to challenge China, but he was cautiously optimistic about Washington and Beijing eventually reaching a trade agreement.

He said lawmakers were still waiting for details about a mini-trade deal reached by Washington and Tokyo this week, including whether the White House had the authority to be able to execute such a deal as part of a two-step process.

“Bottom line is, we want a comprehensive agreement with Japan,” he said. “And we’ll be weighing whether this first step leads up to the second.”

Published in Business

Pieter Willem Botha, South Africa’s former Prime Minister and first Executive President may be turning in his grave, jeering at the seeming inability of the African National Congress (ANC) led government to give hope to the majority Black population and pull the country away from the brink

BY ITOHOIMO UDOSEN

Not many in this clime are oblivious of Wilderness, a serene seaside town with a weird name on the Garden Route of the Southern Cape in South Africa and perhaps one of nature’s most beautiful gifts to mankind which apartheid era President, Pieter Willem Botha made a home.

It is situated a short distance east from the city of George, on the N2 down the Kaaiman’s River Pass. Known for its long and luxuriant white sand beaches and lagoons, the town located directly on the Touw River Lagoon, caters mostly to holiday-makers.

The town experiences an extremely mild climate, typical of the Garden Route and has little temperature variation, seldom dropping below 10 °C and above 28 °C, with year-round rainfall. The flora type is Afromontane gallery forest.

The Outeniqua Choo Tjoe steam train originally ran through the town en route between George and Knysna during its years of operation.

Lying in the foothills of the Outeniqua Mountains in a region of incomparable beauty, Wilderness is an attractive holiday resort with alluring beaches and numerous vantage points to glean the whales and dolphins.

As far back as the late 1800’s, the reputation of Wilderness with its natural bounty of rivers and lakes and intrinsic peace and tranquillity, ideal for seaside holidays, was established in a little stone farmhouse. A seaside boarding house was established in the old homestead – and so began the tradition of hospitality which has made this small resort town famous all over the world.

The romantic resort of Wilderness lies 15 km east of George, between the Kaaimans River in the West and the Goukamma Nature Reserve in the east, bordered by the Outeniqua Mountains in the north and the Indian Ocean in the south.

Wilderness not only overlooks the sea, but also the placid lagoon (Touw River Estuary), the Serpentine, which meanders between the Touw River, Island Lake and Rondevlei. This is a favourite venue for waterskiing and attracts enthusiasts from far and wide. Recreational activities in Wilderness include hiking, mountain-biking, bird- and whale-watching, hang- and paragliding, horse riding, scenic drives, day tours, angling, boating and other water sports.

Excellent viewpoints are Map of Africa with breathtaking scenery of forests, lakes, mountains and coastline and Dolphin’s Point, an excellent vantage point from which to study whales and dolphins. Kaaimans River Bridge is a much favoured spot for photography and particularly for taking snaps of the Outeniqua Choo-Choo that travels along the coastline between George and Knysna.

Over 800 years old, the Woodville Big Tree creates shaded areas with its massive branches, making it a great picnic spot. Take a stroll along the boardwalk (also wheelchair-friendly) which is part of the Pied Kingfisher Trail and home to a wide variety of birds. One wonders how a town that exudes so much beauty could have gotten such a name.

Wilderness is significant as the home of Botha, fondly called P.W. Crocodile, until his death in 2006. He savoured his life in retirement here after leaving power on account of stroke. As Prime Minister from 78-84 and later first executive President from 1984-89, he was intransigent on the issue of conceding power to South Africa’s Black majority.

With the outbreak of xenophobia as a result of growing restlessness of the Black population owning to the inability of the African National Congress (ANC) led government to provide jobs and respond to demands of social welfare to give hope to the teeming Black population, some may argue that Botha was vindicated.

“I am not prepared to lead White South Africans and other minority groups on a road to abdication and suicide,” he had told the then ruling White dominated National Party congress in August 1985 when pressed for concession

Botha would be amused that the South Africa he presided over with daunting efficient infrastructure is beginning to wane under an ANC government. Eskrom, the power company is ailing and load shedding is now commonplace. The government couldn’t even guarantee water in some places as it had to be shared like rations. Many Whites have locked up their funds rather than invest it to generate jobs because they have no faith in the ANC leadership.

He fiercely opposed the 1992 apartheid exit referendum by his successor, President Frederick. W. de Klerk’s in which he campaigned for a “No vote,” denouncing de Klerk’s administration as “irresponsible” for opening the door to black majority rule. Bolstered by the support from conservative forces, Botha, Die Groot Krokodil, Afrikaans word for “The Great Crocodile”, also refused to testify at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) set up by the Mandela government. For his scorn of the TRC, he was fined and given a suspended jail sentence for crimes against humanity. The sentence was later overturned on appeal.

He was however accorded the courtesies of a former President when he passed on in 2006. But spurning offers of a lavish state burial by the Thabo Mbeki government, as part of reconciliation efforts to heal the scars of apartheid, the family opted to bury Botha who died at 90, quietly in Wilderness like renowned US President, Thomas Jefferson and father of modern France and President of the Fifth Republic, Charles De Gaulle.

The apartheid era strongman may just be having some big laugh from his grave watching the country’s descent into savagery with the rise of xenophobic attacks on foreigners particularly fellow Africans as the ANC government remains prostrate to offer sop to the people since the advent of multi-racial South Africa.

This led recently to some diplomatic row with Nigeria which arranged the evacuation of hundreds of its citizens back to the country. It also recalled its Ambassador. Worse is that these attacks appear to have the consent of the ANC leadership with prominent government officials making statements which seemingly endorsed the massacre of foreigners and looting of their shops. Even President Cyril Ramaphosa exploited the fault lines of xenophobia during the last election.

Haven fallen for the trap to accept nominal freedom while the economy including choice lands remained firmly in the hands of the minority White population, the ANC led by Nelson Mandela and its chief negotiator, Ramaphosa, shot itself on the feet when it became spineless in pushing hard with social programmes enunciated in the Freedom Charter adopted in 1955.

Rather than committing itself to massive education of the largely illiterate Black population and a programme of social welfare, including land reform, the ANC cadres who were engrossed in the spoils of office, opted to enfeeble themselves in plots and counter plots for power, avarice and what is generally called “state capture”. Haven herded the country through the rigours of armed struggle in order to exert freedom from the apartheid state, it must be utterly revolting that the ANC settled for a mess of pottage.

Writing on the power play between Mbeki and his erstwhile deputy, Joseph Zuma which eventually led to the easing out of the former in 2006, Michael Plaut, in an analysis for the BBC, had revealed that the ANC had long gone rudderless, disempowering the people with its pursuit of neoliberal policies:

“Thabo Mbeki, although a former member of the South African Communist Party, has used “conventional economic policies” to drive the country’s development agenda.

“Tight monetary and budgetary targets have been set and met. The result has been a period of unprecedented economic growth, reaching 5% a year in recent years.

“In June 1996, Finance Minister, Trevor Manuel introduced a neo-liberal economic strategy known as Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR).

“This included commitments to open markets, privatisation and a favourable investment climate.”

Although the ANC and Cosatu were also opposed to the neoliberal policies spelt out under GEAR, the Central Committee of the Communist Party at its congress of July 1998 was unequivocal in its opposition:

“We remain convinced that GEAR is the wrong policy. It was wrong in the process that developed it, it is wrong in its overall strategic conception, and it is wrong in much of its detail. At the end of the day, we cannot allow our entire transformation struggle to be held hostage by conservative approaches to the budget deficit.”

Blade Nzimande, General Secretary of the Communist Party had earlier said that, “Despite the many modest gains that our own democracy has made since the 1994 democratic breakthrough, our own self-imposed structural adjustment programme, GEAR, failed to make a dent in unemployment (unemployment actually increased dramatically between 1996 and 2006), and eroded the capacity to build a developmental state.”

According to Plaut, “These criticisms are not just held by the Communist Party, they are a reflection of the unease on the left as a whole at the policies that Thabo Mbeki adopted. Anger at the President’s strategy to tackle the problems of unemployment, in particular, contributed to his downfall.”

In April 2001 the country’s national daily, The Star, had a headline that read “Mbeki plot rocks ANC”.

According to the report, President Mbeki had sent his Minister of Safety and Security to accuse three leading members of the party of plotting to oust him.

The accused include former ANC secretary-general, Cyril Ramaphosa, now President and two former provincial premiers, Tokyo Sexwale and Mathews Phosa, who were among the party’s most respected figures.

All three were men who had driven to seek their fortunes in business after being marginalised by Mr Mbeki. To this day, there is no clear explanation why these extraordinary charges were made. Revered Elder Statesman and former President, Nelson Mandela himself emerged from retirement to say that he held all three in “high esteem”.

Both The Mail and The Guardian of London saw this as some antics of Joseph Stalin: “Many observers have dismissed the plot theories as a strategy to warn off potential competitors with ambitions to challenge Mbeki’s leadership.”

“No evidence was ever laid against them, no charges were laid and the matter was swept under the carpet. However, it was certainly not forgotten,” Plaut said.

Ramaphosa, Sexwale, Phosa along with Zwelinzima Vavi, leader of Cosatu and Nzimande were among those who eventually wielded the knife against Mbeki

-Itohoimo Udosen, a Public Affairs Analyst.

Published in Opinion & Analysis
The second batch of Nigerian returnees fleeing from xenophobic attacks in South Africa arrived in Nigeria on Wednesday.
 
The 314 returnees were evacuated by the Federal Government with the assistance of a Nigerian carrier, Air Peace.
 
The B777 aircraft, with registration number 5N-BWI, which departed Oliver Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg, landed at the Cargo Wing of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, at 7.22 p.m.
 
The returnees were received at the airport by Abike Dabiri-Erewa, the Chairman/CEO of Nigerian In Diaspora Commission.
Published in Travel & Tourism
Thursday, 19 September 2019 10:21

Malawi evacuates its citizens from South Africa

The Malawian Government announced that it had hired two buses to repatriate nationals, who were displaced, following xenophobic attacks on foreigners in South Africa.
 
The buses left Johannesburg on Tuesday evening and the repatriated Malawians would be back home on Thursday, Secretary for the Department of Disaster Management Affairs, Wilson Moleni, said in a statement.
 
Moleni said the repatriation was decided after the government received a report from the Malawi High Commission in South Africa that 113 Malawians had been displaced.
 
The displaced Malawians were being kept in temporary shelters set by South Africa’s disaster management authorities in Katlehong town, 35 kilometres east of Johannesburg, the secretary said in the statement.
 
He added: “Out of the 113 displaced Malawians, 76 expressed willingness to return home’’.
 
Upon arrival, the repatriated Malawian nationals will be provided with temporary shelter in the commercial city of Blantyre before travelling to their various destinations, according to Moleni.
Published in World
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