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Tuesday, 25 February 2020
Tuesday, 25 February 2020 18:17

Explosive device goes off in Syrian capital

An explosive device ripped through a car in the capital Damascus on Tuesday evening, wounding one, state TV reported.

The explosive device was affixed under a pick-up truck and went off in the Umayyad Square in Damascus, said the report. It added that the driver was wounded and taken to a nearby hospital.

Earlier in the day, one civilian was killed and another one wounded when an explosive device ripped through a car in near the Tishreen Stadium in Damascus.

The target is still unknown but such small scale explosions have taken place more often recently.

On Feb. 20, an explosive device ripped through a pickup truck in the heart of the capital Damascus.

On Feb. 18, five civilians were wounded by a blast caused by an explosive device affixed under a car in the Bab Musalla area.

On Feb. 10, one person was wounded by a similar explosion in the western Damascus’ Mazzeh area.

Damascus has remained calm since the army dislodged the last rebel group from the Eastern Ghouta countryside in May 2018. Still, sporadic explosions happen with seemingly random targets.

Most of the targeted cars belong to either security forces or the Syrian army.

Published in World
 ...as Governor's aide tours Made in Akwa Ibom showroom. 
Entrepreneurs in Akwa Ibom State have been urged to switch gears from just having a physical business  presence while doing business in the state to having a digital portal where the global world can access their products and services. The Special Assistant to Governor Udom Emmanuel on Entrepreneurial Development, Mrs Meflyn Anwana made the call while on a tour to the Made in Akwa Ibom Show room; a business exhibition centre put together by a convergence of Ibom Entrepreneurs' Forum Monday 24th February 2020. A group of innovative minds who were inspired by Governor Udom's Dakkadda Philosophy to rise to the faith of their  greatness.
Anwana, who was Accompanied on the tour by the Akwa Ibom State Coordinator of SMEDAN Lucy Ekpenyong was received at the show room by the Group's Head, Mr Collins Oscar and other members of the Ibom Entrepreneurs' Forum who were handy to introduce the delegation to their varieties of products and services.
Anwana admonished the entrepreneurs to go beyond just producing goods and services to ensuring that a quality control mechanism is set up to control the standard of goods and services and ensure that their products are of high quality. 
" Everyone of you who are members of the Ibom Entrepreneurs' Forum must note that you are not just in business for yourself and  for amassing wealth through profit making but you are in business to serve quality products  and services to the public" she said. 
"You must also  know that your business isn't limited to your physical world, and as such in a competitive fast changing world, it is expedient that as a business group you take on the many available advantages of the e-commerce industry to broaden your scope of operations. Your business should be guarded jealousy knowing that  your commercial activities adds to increased IGR and GDP index of the State in particular and the country at large" she added. 
Earlier in her remarks, The State SMEDAN boss, Lucy Ekpenyong charged Ibom Entrepreneurs as well as other producers in the state to ensure that every product made in Akwa Ibom should not just meet the quality standards of Nigeria but should be produced, branded and packaged to compete favorably in the global market. 
While on the tour, the team made a stop over at the Made in Akwa Ibom Factory also known as Ibom  Entrepreneurs Hub to inspect their equipment and machinery at the factory. 
Responding on behalf of the Ibom Entrepreneurs Forum, Mr Collins Oscar who doubles as the group's head took time to eulogize the state governor, Mr Udom for challenging Akwa Ibom youths to a life of entrepreneurship, stating that Gov Udom's government and the Dakkada philosophy made it possible for countless numbers of people in the state to look inward and tap into their resourcefulness. 
He also appreciated the kind gestures of His Excellency for putting up the MEGP programme through the Directorate of Marketing and Brand Management which has helped trained entrepreneurs on cutting edge skills and approaches and the dynamics of running a successful business. 
Mrs Anwana was also accompanied by Alumni of the my Entrepreneurship Goals Programme (MEGP)  Batch 1&2 She further used the opportunity to call on many entrepreneurs in the state to enroll for the free  training  offered by the third batch of the MEGP.
Published in Business
Tuesday, 25 February 2020 09:13

Nigeria’s GDP grew by 2.27% in 2019

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said on Monday the Nigerian economy recorded a 2.27 percent growth last year compared to 2018 when it posted 1.91 percent growth.

In its Nigerian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Report Q4 and Full Year 2019 report, the Bureau said the nation’s economy recorded an expansion rate of 2.55 percent in the fourth quarter of 2019, when compared with the 2.38 percent recorded in the corresponding period of 2018.

The 2.55 percent growth recorded during the period and enlarged by 0.27 percent quarter on quarter made it the country’s highest quarterly growth in post-recession times.

On sectoral basis, the oil sector witnessed a 4.59 percent expansion in the year, higher than the 0.97 percent posted in 2018.

The oil sector accounted for 8.78 percent of the entire Nigeria’s real GDP in 2019.

However, the non-oil sector contributed 91.22 percent to real GDP in 2019.

On industry basis, the mining and quarrying industry, which was dominated by crude oil and natural gas, accounted for 8.85 percent of the total GDP in 2019, lower than the 10.68 percent posted in 2018.

Its annual expansion rate for 2019 was 4.43 percent, greater than the 1.11 percent recorded in 2018.

The agriculture industry, largely driven by crop production, contributed 25.16 percent to real GDP, higher the 25.13 percent posted in 2018.

Its annual growth rate was 2.36 percent, higher than the 2.12 percent reported in 2018.

The manufacturing industry was responsible for 9.06 percent of real GDP last year compared to the 9.20 percent recorded the previous year.

Its real annual growth rate was 0.77 percent in 2019.

The Electricity, Gas, Steam and Air conditioning Supply industry constituted 0.39 percent of real GDP in 2019.

However, it recorded a negative annual growth which stood at -4.86 percent in 2019.

The construction industry accounted for 3.72 percent of real GDP in the year under review.

Its annual growth rate was 1.81 percent in 2019.

The trade industry was responsible for 16.01 percent of real GDP in 2019, lower than the 16.44 percent posted in 2018.

The Accommodation and Food Services Industry contributed 0.89 percent to real GDP in 2019.

Its full-year growth was 2.85 percent.

The Information and Communication Industry accounted for 13.04% to real GDP higher than the 12.22 percent posted in 208.

Its annual growth rate was 9.17 percent.

The Transportation and Storage Industry contributed 1.48 percent to real GDP last year.

Its annual growth rate was 10.73 percent in 2019.

The Arts, Entertainment and Recreation Industry accounted for 0.23 percent of real GDP in 2019 higher than the 0.22 percent posted in 2018.

The annual growth rate for 2019 was 4.12 percent.

The Finance and Insurance Industry was responsible for 3.01 percent of real GDP in 2019 compared to the 3 percent posted in 2018.

Its annual growth rate was 2.56 percent.

The Administrative and Support Services Industry constituted 0.02 percent of real GDP in 2019.

Its annual growth rate was 1.96 percent in 2019, higher than the -0.18 percent recorded in 2018.

The Professional, Scientific and Technical Services Industry contributed 3.57 percent to real GDP in 2019, lower than the 3.71 percent it posted in 2018.

The Education Industry accounted for 2.47 percent to real GDP last year.

Its annual expansion rate was 0.80 percent, higher than the negative growth of 0.03 percent in 2018.

The Public Administration Industry contributed 2.06 percent to real GDP in 2019.

Its annual growth rate was -4.01% compared to the -2.05 percent recorded in 2018.

The Human Health and Social Services Industry accounted for 0.66 percent of real GDP in 2019.

The Other Services Industry was responsible for 3.37 percent of real GDP in 2019.

Published in News Economy

A silent revolution is happening in investing. It is a paradigm shift that will have a profound impact on corporations, countries and pressing issues like climate change. Yet most people are not even aware of it.

In a traditional investment fund, the decisions about where to invest the capital of the investors are taken by fund managers. They decide whether to buy shares in firms like Saudi Aramco or Exxon. They decide whether to invest in environmentally harmful businesses like coal.

Yet there has been a steady shift away from these actively managed funds towards passive or index funds. Instead of depending on a fund manager, passive funds simply track indices – for example, an S&P 500 tracker fund would buy shares in every company in the S&P 500 in order to mirror its overall performance. One of the great attractions of such funds is that their fees are dramatically lower than the alternative.

In 2019 there was a watershed in the history of finance. In the United States, the total value of actively managed funds was surpassed by passive funds. Globally, passive funds crossed US$10 trillion (£7.7 trillion), a five-fold increase from US$2 trillion in 2007.

This seemingly unstoppable ascent has two main consequences. First, corporate ownership has become concentrated in the hands of the “big three” passive asset managers: BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street. They are already the largest owners of corporate America.

The second consequence relates to the companies that provide the indices that these passive funds follow. When investors buy index funds, they effectively delegate their investment decisions to these providers. Three dominant providers have become increasingly powerful: MSCI, FTSE Russell and S&P Dow Jones Indices.

Steering global capital flows

With trillions of dollars migrating to passive funds, the role of index providers has been transformed. We traced this change in a recent paper: in the past, index providers only supplied information to financial markets. In our new age of passive investing, they are becoming market authorities.

Deciding who appears in the indices is not just something technical or objective. It involves some discretion by the providers and benefits some actors over others. By determining which players are included on the list, setting the criteria becomes an inherently political activity.

Especially relevant are the dominant emerging markets stock indices, particularly the widely tracked MSCI Emerging Markets Index. This is a list of large and medium-sized companies in 26 countries, including China, India and Mexico.

MSCI sets the standards for countries to qualify for inclusion. Above all, they have to guarantee free access to domestic stock markets for foreign investors. If a country is included, massive amounts of capital will flow into their national stock market almost automatically. As a result, MSCI and the other big three providers’ rival indices are now effectively steering global investment flows.

For example, when Saudi Arabia was recently added to the list of qualifying countries for these indices, it was predicted to trigger inflows into the Saudi stock market of up to US$40 billion. And when Saudi Aramco, the largest global oil producer, went public last year, it was fast-tracked by the same three index providers into their emerging markets indices. Millions of investors around the world now unknowingly hold shares in this controversial corporation – either through owning emerging markets index funds or having pensions that hold such funds on their behalf.

When China was added to the key emerging market indices in 2018, reportedly after heavy lobbying from Beijing, the capital steering effect was expected to be larger by an order of magnitude. It was estimated that the long-term inflows into Chinese stocks would be up to US$400 billion.

The future role of index providers

The three dominant index providers’ income mainly derives from the funds replicating their indices, since they have to pay royalties for the privilege. The providers are therefore currently enjoying a fee bonanza. For 2019, MSCI reported record revenues and said the assets tracking its indices were at all-time highs.

Our research suggests that these providers’ brands are so well established that competitors will struggle to take away that business. This suggests that MSCI, FTSE Russell and S&P Dow Jones will increase their role as a new kind of de facto global regulators.

Soaring & Passive. Alexandra Gigowska

Arguably the most important aspect of their private authority for the future of our planet pertains to how corporations tackle climate change. BlackRock recently made headlines with plans to divest from firms that make more than 25% of their revenues from coal. Yet this only applies to BlackRock’s actively managed funds: most of its funds track indices from the major index providers, so they will keep investing in coal until the providers remove such companies from their indices.

Similarly, BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street all recently announced they will increase their range of so-called ESG funds, which profess to exclude the worst performing firms according to environmental, social and governance criteria. Again, these criteria are increasingly defined by the index providers, using proprietary methodologies. As The Economist has noted, the providers often decide which companies to include based on whether they go about their business sustainably rather than what business they are actually in.

For instance, Saudi Aramco produces few emissions extracting oil from the ground. It’s a comparatively “sustainable” oil company, but it’s still an oil company. Most ESG indices include industry leaders in each sector and exclude worst performers - irrespective of the industry. Consequently, many ESG funds still heavily invest in the likes of airlines, oil and mining companies.

Best in the sector? Steve Buissinne/Pixabay, CC BY-SA

They are also sometimes quite arbitrary about who qualifies as a good performer. For instance, the American bank Wells Fargo is ranked in the top third by one index provider, while another ranks it in the bottom 5%.

In short, this tightly interlinked group of three giant passive fund managers and three major index providers will largely determine how corporations tackle climate change. The world is paying little attention to the judgements they make, and yet these judgements look highly questionable. If the world is truly to get to grips with the global climate crisis, this constellation needs to be far more closely scrutinised by regulators, researchers and the general public.The Conversation


Jan Fichtner, Postdoctoral Researcher in Political Science, University of Amsterdam; Eelke Heemskerk, Associate Professor Political Science, University of Amsterdam, and Johannes Petry, ESRC Doctoral Research Fellow in International Political Economy, University of Warwick

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

Published in World
Tuesday, 25 February 2020 07:24

Cameroon to Macron: Leave Paul Biya alone

Cameroon has opposed French President Emmanuel Macron’s remarks over a separatist crisis in the country’s English-speaking regions.

Cameroonian President Paul Biya “is accountable for his actions to the sole sovereign Cameroonian people and not to a foreign leader, even from a friendly country,” Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh, secretary general of the Cameroon presidency, said in a statement released Monday evening.

On Saturday, Macron, while speaking to a Cameroonian activist at a farm show in Paris, promised to put “maximum pressure” on Biya over a humanitarian crisis in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions where armed separatists are clashing with government forces.

Biya is fully engaged to accomplish his mandate “and does not need external pressure to do so,” commented Ngoh.

He also urged Cameroonians to remain calm and open to strengthen the “historic relations” between France and Cameroon.

Early on Monday, hundreds of demonstrators, brandishing placards and chanting slogans, gathered in front of the French embassy in Cameroon to protest against what they described as Paris’ intervention in their internal affairs.

According to the UN, there have been over 700,000 refugees and internally displaced persons since separatists began clashing with government forces in 2017 to establish an independent nation they call “Ambazonia” in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon.

Published in World
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