Nov 12, 2019

Electricity is a hot political issue in Ghana. Ghanaians demand access to the electricity grid as a right of citizenship. And, when not connected, they have threatened in the past to boycott national elections with slogans such as: “No light, no vote!”

In 2016, then President Mahama became known as “Mr Power Cut” because of widespread power cuts that plagued his term in office. He was heavily defeated in elections by Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo-Addo. The next Ghanaian election in 2020 is a rematch between the two.

Politicians are therefore under a lot of pressure to distribute reliable electric power, but concerns about corruption in the power sector persist. The next Ghanaian election in 2020 is a rematch between the two.

Politicians are therefore under a lot of pressure to distribute reliable electric power, but concerns about corruption in the power sector persist.

In a new research paper we examine a programme to distribute solar panels to meet the needs of people without electricity in Ghana. We wanted to find out whether political patronage played a role in decisions about who got the solar panels and who didn’t.

Our broader question was whether civil servants in a developing democracy can resist political capture in the distribution of public goods.

Resisting the opportunity for corruption

A great deal of research has been done on how political patronage works from the perspective of what drives politicians. But service decisions are often made by bureaucrats. That is why we chose to conduct our research by tracking decisions taken by civil servants.

Interviews revealed that the goal of the solar panel programme was to provide electricity for educational, medical and community purposes in places where future grid extension was unlikely. The programme was funded by a European government donor and implemented by the Ghanaian Ministry of Energy.

The civil servants who carried out the programme knew that political corruption was common in Ghana. For example, studies had shown that vote buying was prevalent and that politicians sometimes used the provision of public goods – even the electricity grid – to gain votes.

We found that because of this, civil servants had taken extra precautions to avoid the programme being “captured” by politicians. For example, they relied on grid access data – rather than member of parliament recommendations – to identify communities that needed electricity. They also visited communities to confirm their need.

Our paper asked whether the programme was successful in getting solar panels to the neediest communities, rather than rewarding communities that usually voted for the political party in power.

We found that the considerable efforts to thwart corruption paid off for national-level civil servants. They were able to resist political capture. But only up to a point. Even their best efforts were thwarted when politics seeped into the process at a local level.

Who got the solar panels?

We analysed whether solar panels were more likely to go to isolated communities with limited road infrastructure or to places with political ties to the government. Since grid expansion usually follows road infrastructure, communities with few roads are unlikely to be connected to the grid in the medium term. These communities therefore have a greater need for alternative sources of electricity, like solar panels.

We tracked the distribution of solar panels using statistical analysis of data on solar panel locations. We also interviewed people who made decisions or were affected by the programme.

The programme partially worked: panels were indeed distributed to isolated communities and those in need of electricity, rather than to incumbent strongholds.

But we also found that panels went to areas where voter turnout had been inconsistent over time – in other words where it was likely that voter turnout could be swayed.

This pattern was evident across the country, but was particularly marked in the area around Lake Volta. Analysis of interview responses and historical documents showed that this variation reflected the logistics of space and the historical politics of place.

This could mean that distribution was also influenced by the desire to mobilise people who sometimes, but do not always, vote, by bringing them electricity access.

Politics at local level

Bureaucratic efforts to avoid political influence did succeed in some ways. The most obvious ways for political capture to influence distribution would be to steer more solar panels to communities with the highest support for the incumbent political party or highest voter turnout. This, however, did not happen.

We found, though, that politics seeped into the decision-making process at a local level.

Because it was hard for bureaucrats in the capital to obtain enough data about where to distribute the solar panels, they consulted local actors in communities to learn more about local need. This may have opened up the process to people who had more explicit political agendas than the national bureaucrats. Panels were subtly steered to places that were both needed and politically useful.

African governments have long dealt with the unfortunate stereotype that they distribute goods solely based on clientelism, nepotism, or corruption. Our study of Ghana’s work to distribute solar panels adds to the growing body of evidence that African governments do respond to need. They can resist political influence. They just may not be able to avoid it completely.The Conversation

 

Justin Scott Schon, Post Doctoral Researcher, University of Florida; Elizabeth Baldwin, Arthur F. Bentley Chair and Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Arizona; Jennifer N. Brass, Associate professor, Indiana University, and Lauren M. MacLean, Arthur F. Bentley Chair and Professor of Political Science

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

Nov 12, 2019

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has generated revenue of about N1.002 trillion from January to September 2019.

The data from the Department of Research and Statistics and confirmed by the NCS’s public relations office indicated that the revenue was generated from 32 commands.

The statistics showed that the service recorded the highest revenue of N123.6 billion in the month of July followed by N118.6 billion realised in May.

The data also revealed that the lowest revenue was recorded in the month of February with N86.3 billion.

The low in February’s revenue might have been caused by 2019 general elections due to partial closure of borders within those periods of polls.

According to the data, Apapa area command has the highest revenue of N313.5 billion within the period under review.

The statistics also indicated that immediately after the partial closure of borders, the service recorded N115.6 billion in September, with about N6.1 billion more than what was realised in August before borders were closed.

The revenue was generated from import duty, levy, excise duty and other fees.

There is every possibility, with this statistics, by the end of 2019, NCS revenue will surpass the earning of 2018, which stood at N1.2 trillion.

NAN reports that 2018 revenue by customs was N164.8 billion more than the 2017 collection, which was N1.037 trillion.

Nov 12, 2019

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi thanked US President Donald Trump Monday on social media for his support in the trilateral Nile damn negotiations later this week.

Sisi described Trump as being of "unique standing with the power in dealing with conflicts... and finding crucial solutions for them."

He expressed his gratitude to Trump for "his efforts in sponsoring the tripartite negotiations"

The talks scheduled for Wednesday in Washington will bring Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to the table to discuss Ethiopias Renaissance Dam, which will be fully operational by 2022.

Discussions between the three countries broke down this year prompting Egypt to call for international mediation last month.

ELECTRICITY

Addis Ababa insists its $4 billion hydro-electric barrage is necessary to provide the country with much-needed electricity.

But Egypt fears the mammoth structure could drastically reduce the flow of the Nile, on which it depends for around 90 percent of its water supply.

A US official said earlier this month that Sisi had asked Trump to get involved in the deadlock when they met in September on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

Trump agreed to reach out to Ethiopia and offered the "good offices" of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to mediate the dispute, the official said on condition of anonymity.

"I reiterate my full confidence in... finding a consensus that assures the rights of all parties within the framework of international law and humanitarian justice," Sisi added in tweets posted late Monday.

'WAR'

Last month, Ethiopias Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed told parliament, in reference to the dam, that "if we are going to war... we can deploy many millions".

Egypts slammed his strident comments as "unacceptable".

Abiy, who won this years Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to heal tensions with neighbouring Eritrea, emphasised however that negotiations would be the best way to resolve the issue.

Ethiopia and Sudan have confirmed their attendance at the summit after Egypt quickly accepted the US offer to mediate.

The Nile is a lifeline supplying both water and electricity to the 10 countries it traverses.

Its main tributaries, the White and Blue Niles, converge in the Sudanese capital Khartoum before flowing north through Egypt to drain into the Mediterranean Sea.

Analysts fear the three Nile basin countries could be drawn into a conflict if the escalating spat is not resolved before the dam begins operating.

Nov 11, 2019

Dangote Industries will invest in a $2 billion phosphate project in Togo, positioning itself to become a main supplier of fertilizer in West Africa.

The company controlled by Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote will mine an estimated 2 billion tons of phosphate in nearby Togo for processing as much as 1 million tons of fertilizer a year at a new complex in Lagos, according to a joint statement by the company and the Togolese presidency.

“Under the agreement, Togo will provide access to phosphate resources and the Dangote Group will provide access to ammonia and to the Nigerian market,” the parties said in the statement. Ammonia is a key ingredient in the production of phosphate fertilizer.

Nigeria accounts for as much as 50% of harvested land in West Africa, making it a top market for fertilizer consumption growth, according to London-based commodities consultancy CRU.

Dangote is also planning to build a cement plant with an annual capacity of 1.5 million tons in the Togolese capital of Lome, according to the statement. The $60 million facility is scheduled to start operating by the end of next year, using clinker from Togo and Nigeria.

 

Nov 11, 2019

The transition from fossil fuels to cleaner energies is a global pursuit. But it’s faster and more intensive in some countries than others. Take the case of South Africa. Heavily dependent on coal, the country is proceeding with a more intense transition in which renewable energies are set to play a growing role.

Renewable energy technologies have recently established their role in the global energy supply mix. This is because they have begun to overcome two big hurdles. The first was concerns about high cost. The second was their inability to provide secure energy supply. A number of factors have improved their accessibility and affordability. These include technological improvements, economies of scale and increased competition.

The share of renewable energies in the overall energy mix will certainly have an impact on electricity market dynamics. This includes energy prices. Prices are the most effective signal to users and potential investors about alternative energy sources.

That’s why understanding how a higher share of renewable energy in the energy mix influences electricity prices can help policy makers.

The impact on retail prices of electricity isn’t uniform. It differs from country to country, and is influenced by regulatory frameworks. Nor is it the same over time. For example, in Spain, the higher renewable energy share in the mix led to higher electricity prices between 2002 and 2009. This was due to the high costs of the renewable energy technologies at the time. After 2009 prices fell. This was attributed mostly to the reduction of production cost of the renewable energy technologies as well as the economies of scale created.

We set out to look at what affected an increase in the share of renewable energy in the mix. Variables included improvements in technologies, reductions in the cost of producing renewables, changes in market structures and increasing competition.

In all 34 OECD countries in the study we confirmed the positive impact of increased share of renewable energy on the retail price of electricity. But we did find that, under certain market conditions, the inclusion of renewable energies in the supply mix could increase the cost of production. This was then passed on to the end-users.

Variables used

The econometric model was based on a panel of 34 OECD countries. The variables we used were:

  • retail electricity prices,

  • electricity generated from renewable sources as a percentage of total gross electricity production,

  • a measure of each country’s level of development (the gross domestic product per capita measured in constant 2010 US dollars),

  • greenhouse gas emissions by the energy sector as a percentage of total greenhouse gas emissions,

  • energy dependency, and

  • the market share of the largest electricity generator.

We included greenhouse gas emissions by the energy sector because European Union (EU) countries operate an emission trading scheme. Fluctuations in these emissions have a direct impact on the marginal cost of energy production.

Energy dependency indicates the degree to which the countries are dependent on energy imports. The measure of the market share of the largest electricity generator in the market is included because an increase in this variable would indicate a reduction in competition.

But we made adjustments. One, for example, was for each country’s level of economic development and greenhouse gas emissions by the energy sector as a percentage of total greenhouse gas emissions.

Not all 34 countries had data on the level of competition in the market. So, in evaluating the impact of this variable, only EU 23 countries remained in the sample. In these countries we found that a 1% increase in electricity generation concentration lead to a 0.091% decrease in retail electricity prices. This suggests that increased market power led to a price reduction.

This contradicts perfect competition theory. But it’s in line with other research that found that countries with higher market concentration have more government subsidies which decreases electricity prices. The caveat here is that subsidies have to be used efficiently, else prices rise.

Overall from our results, and controlling for the other factors, a 1% increase in the renewable energy share in the supply mix was responsible for the increase in retail electricity price in a range between 0.03 – 0.046% in each of the countries and period examined.

Do these results therefore call on countries like South Africa to tread carefully on promoting the adoption of renewable energies for fear of electricity price increases?

The answer is complex.

Policy options

Projections show that in the next two years, renewable energy technologies will – at the very least – be competitive on price with fossil fuels. Renewable energies have the potential to be even more cost effective in the future. The means that the relationship between a rising share of renewable energy in the overall electricity mix of a country and the retail price of electricity will eventually be negative.

As our research underscores, the structure of the electricity market influences the impact of renewable energies on the retail price of electricity. But the impact differs in regulated monopolised markets compared with open and competitive markets.

Another factor to keep in mind is when considering an increase in electricity prices as a result of renewables is that the associated marginal cost is low while the environmental benefit is high.

But policy makers need to evaluate and proactively deal with the specific environments they’re operating in, particularly the short-run consequences of changing the equilibrium of an energy system.

For example, in developing countries economic and social reasons need to be considered equally while the environmental benefit might be considered an added bonus, not the main purpose. In developed countries, on the other hand, the aim might be purely environmental coupled with social awareness.

 

Anne Marie Oosthuizen, currently reading for her Masters in Economics at the University of Pretoria, was the co-author of the research on which this article is based.The Conversation

Roula Inglesi-Lotz, Associate Professor of Economics, University of Pretoria and George Alex Thopil, Senior lecturer in Engineering & Technology Management, University of Pretoria

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

Nov 11, 2019

A ground-breaking report on family planning has shown Nigeria as the second slowest growing country, after Mali in West Africa when it comes to the uptake of modern contraception.

This is despite over 6.5million women using a modern method of contraception and modern contraceptive prevalence rate (MCPR) growing at roughly 0.3 percentage points per year, the average rate of 69 countries in focus.

The statistics about Nigeria is contained in a new report, FP2020: Women at the Center produced by Family Planning 2020. The report was launched today on the side-lines of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Nairobi, Kenya. FP2020’s latest report is part of the 25-year arc of progress that has lifted hundreds of millions of women and girls since the Cairo Summit in 1994.

The report estimated that the percentage of women in Nigeria with an unmet need for a modern method of contraception (married/in-union) stands at 23.7% in 2019.

Nigeria was part of the first group of countries to commit to the FP2020 partnership when it launched in 2012. Since then, the country has made steady progress toward increased uptake of family planning.

The report estimates that as a result of modern contraceptive use Nigeria, over 2.3 million unintended pregnancies have been prevented, and over 800,000 unsafe abortions and 13,000 maternal deaths have been averted in the last year alone.

In Nigeria, a woman gives birth to an average of 5.5 children in her lifetime. The population of women of reproductive age in Nigeria makes up roughly half of all women of reproductive age in West Africa.

The Government of Nigeria is working with key stakeholders to address socio-cultural norms to address family planning such as: preference for large families, religious tenets, and women’s lack of decision-making power related to sexual and reproductive health.

According to the report, governments and donors around the world are recognising the importance of family planning programs with donor government bi-lateral funding for family planning rising to US$1.5 billion in 2018. This is the highest level since FP2020 was launched in 2012.

The report shows that in the world’s 69 lowest-income countries today more women and girls have access to family planning than ever before. It reveals that 314 million women and girls are now using modern contraception, with 53 million new users in the last seven years, and 9 million in the past year alone.

With almost 60% of its population under the age of 25, Africa is the world’s youngest region.

Ensuring that young women and girls have access to family planning is central to the continent’s future development, paving the way for more educated communities, healthier populations and wealthier nations.

FP2020: Women at the Center has been produced by Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) – a global partnership that supports the rights of woman and girls to decide – freely and for themselves – whether, when, and how many children they want to have.

Beth Schlachter, Executive Director of FP2020, said: “The evidence is clear – when you invest in women and girls, the good deed never ends. Barriers are broken and opportunities open up that not only lift women out of poverty but can elevate society and bring about economic gains. No other single change can do more to improve the state of the world.”

She continued, “25 years on from the first ICPD, the family planning movement has gained huge momentum. Yet big challenges remain. With every day that passes, millions are denied the right to choose their own future. As we look ahead to 2030, we must continue to push for progress, build on what works well, and ensure we leave no woman or girl behind.”

Challenges remain significant as FP2020 approaches a key timebound deadline. Progress must keep pace to unlock the fullness of human potential

While progress has been significant, FP2020 approaches its deadline year and the initial numeric goal of reaching an additional 120 million women and girls has yet to be realized. The challenge of putting women and girls at the centre of development remains critical.

There are 926 million women of reproductive age today across the 69 FP2020 countries – 100 million more than there were in 2012. With this number expected to surpass 1 billion in 2025, millions more women will need vital family planning services.

As the global community looks ahead to the post-2020 framework, the importance of putting women and girls at the centre of development is paramount. More work is ahead, and the challenge will be to deepen existing commitments and approaches to ensure that the needs and rights of women and girls around the world are met and respected.

Other key findings from FP2020’s Progress Report 2019-2020 include:

*The FP2020 partnership continues to expand, with new commitments this year from Angola, the Central African Republic, The Gambia, and others.

*Modern contraceptive prevalence among all women (MCPR)—is rising. Across the 69 FP2020 focus countries, MCPR among all women of reproductive age has risen by more than 2% since 2012. The sharpest increase has occurred in Eastern and Southern Africa (7%).

*In FP2020 focus countries in Asia, approximately 38% of women of reproductive age were using a modern method as of July 2019, and the average growth across the regions of Asia has been 0.2 percentage points per year since 2012.

*Seven donors increased their funding of family planning in 2018: Canada, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, the UK, and the US.

*India, Bangladesh, and Indonesia have the highest levels of domestic government expenditure out of all 69 countries.

Nov 11, 2019

First Singles sales by Alibaba after Jack Ma’s (above) exit nets $13b in one hour

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Inc said on Monday that sales for its annual Singles’ Day shopping blitz hit 91.2 billion yuan ($13 billion) within the first hour, up 32% from last year’s early haul of 69 billion yuan.

Akin to Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the United States, Singles’ Day has been promoted as a shopping fest by Alibaba Chairman and Chief Executive Daniel Zhang since 2009, growing rapidly to become the world’s biggest online sales event.

Also known as “Double Eleven”, the festival’s name originates from the calendar date 11/11, with the four ones referencing being single. Alibaba saw sales worth $30 billion on its platforms on Singles’ Day last year, dwarfing $7.9 billion U.S. online sales for Cyber Monday. Yet the 27% sales growth was the lowest in the event’s 10-year history, spurring a search for fresh ideas.

The $486 billion Chinese retail juggernaut kicked off this year’s 24-hour shopping fest with performances by American pop star Taylor Swift and local celebrities like Jackson Yee.

This is the first time Alibaba’s Singles’ Day does not have flamboyant co-founder Jack Ma at its helm, after he resigned in September as chairman.

It also comes at a crucial time for the company, which is looking to raise up to $15 billion via a share sale in Hong Kong this month.

Alibaba continues to dominate the online shopping industry, but not without competition.

In addition to longtime rival JD.com, it now faces competition from upstart Pinduoduo, which surged in popularity in 2017 by targeting consumers in China’s lower-tier cities.

Nov 11, 2019

Tizeti, Nigeria’s pioneer solar-based internet service provider, has launched its 4G LTE network in Nigeria, with the plans to extend to leading cities in Nigeria and West Africa in 2020.

Announcing the rollout of high-speed 4G services to Rivers, Ogun and Edo States, in a first phase launch, Tizeti’s Chief Executive Officer, Kendall Ananyi promised its 4G connectivity will empower more Nigerians in Nigeria’s South-South and South-West states, stimulate economic activities and provide unlimited access to affordable and reliable broadband services.

This launch followed the build of brand-new, solar-powered, 4G-capable towers in Port Harcourt, Rivers State where Tizeti will offer its first 4G and ISP services, to be followed by new towers in Ogun and Edo.

Mr. Ananyi said that this new solution will boost internet penetration in the new states and contribute to accelerating digital transformation across Nigeria.

”Access to affordable and reliable unlimited internet connectivity has been an intractable problem for a lot of Nigerian businesses and residential customers, especially for people in Edo, Rivers and Ogun States. To address this and provide a sustainable and cost-effective solution, we leverage our solar-powered, always-on towers and robust internet bandwidth from MainOne to create a low CAPEX and OPEX network of owned and operated towers. This allows us to offer customers unlimited internet at 30 to 50% the cost of traditional mobile data plans”.

The launch of its 4G network provides Tizeti the opportunity to drive the growth in demand for eCommerce, music, interactive games and video consumption in Nigeria, especially from popular social media apps that have integrated video calling and video stories as well as content sites such as YouTube, Netflix, and Iroko.

The price for a Tizeti unlimited plan is 9,500 Nigerian Naira per month. The company has 1.1 million unique users and internet services that include a new Skype-like personal and business enterprise communications service — https://WifiCall.ng/ and access to video streaming sites & services

Nov 10, 2019

OPay, a provider of payment, ride-hailing, food delivery and loan services, has been given approval by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to commence international money transfer.

With the approval, OPay will start facilitating remittance B2B, B2P and P2P remittance services into Nigeria. This is coming on the heels of the earlier announced $50 million fundraised from major venture capitalist some months ago.

“The plan is to distort the remittance space and ensure that international money transfer into Nigeria is safer, faster and more affordable” according to Kunle Olamuyiwa, Director, Remittances Services at OPay.

With OPay’s infrastructure in Nigeria, it will be easier and faster for global remittance companies to partner with OPay to help their customers to receive money from their business partners, customers and loved ones directly into their OPay wallet and any bank account or mobile wallet in Nigeria. Also, recipients can cash out their funds from their OPay wallets at any of the over 100,000 OPay mobile money agents in Nigeria.

“We are already working with major global remittance companies around the world and will start facilitating remittances to Nigeria with these partners, ensuring the best fees and exchange rates, speed and security.

“There is a plan to commence a big-bang promo in December with lots of prices for recipients of money transfer who receive their money directly into their OPay wallets. I can only advise everyone who has families around the world to get an OPay Wallet. They will get better value for these funds doing transfers to any bank, paying their bills, buying food and also using our on-demand transport services i.e. Oride, OBus and Otrike. And on top of all, they can channel unused funds to OWealth and earn interest on it daily. It is, indeed, better times for recipients of international money transfers in Nigeria,” he said.

Nov 10, 2019

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the fall of the Berlin Wall reminds “us that we have to do our part for freedom and democracy”

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier urged the United States to be a “mutually respectful partner” and reject nationalism.

It was a clear salvo aimed at US leader Donald Trump as Germany on Saturday marked 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Recalling the United States’ key role in helping to bring down the hated Wall separating communist East Germany from the capitalist West, Steinmeier said he still hears the late American president Ronald Reagan’s cry of “tear down this wall” at the iconic Brandenburg Gate.

But in a swipe at Trump’s America First policy and his insistence on building a wall on the southern border with Mexico, Steinmeier voiced a yearning for a return of the transatlantic partner of the past.

“This America as a mutually respectful partner, as a partner for democracy and freedom, against national egoism — that is what I hope for in the future too,” said Steinmeier.

The German president’s sharp words, as he opened festivities at the spot where Reagan once stood, underlined growing tensions between the traditional allies.

Germany has been deeply rattled by Trump’s go-it-alone attitude on issues ranging from Iranian nuclear policy to trade with Europe and climate change.

From Washington, Trump sent a message of congratulations for the commemoration, adding that the US “will continue working with Germany, one of our most treasured allies, to ensure that the flames of freedom burn as a beacon of hope and opportunity for the entire world to see.”

But unlike the optimism at previous commemorations of the epochal event on November 9, 1989 that brought the communist regime crashing down, three decades on, the mood has soured as the Western alliance that helped secure the liberal democracy is riddled with divisions.

Within Germany too, a chasm has opened up with the far-right gaining a strong foothold in the former communist east on the back of its nationalist and anti-immigration message.

For Steinmeier, “a new wall has arisen that cuts through our country — a wall of frustration, a wall of anger and hate”.

“Walls that are invisible but which divide. Walls that stand in the way of our cohesion,” he warned, as he called on Germans to “tear down these walls, at long last.”

Under grey skies earlier Saturday, Steinmeier and presidents of central European countries placed roses in the cracks of a remaining section of the Wall still standing in the north of central Berlin.

At a solemn ceremony in a church standing on the former “death strip” that divided Berlin, Chancellor Angela Merkel, who grew up in East Germany, called on Europe to defend democracy and freedom, warning that such gains must not be taken for granted.

The Berlin Wall reminds “us that we have to do our part for freedom and democracy,” said Merkel.

“The values upon which Europe is founded… they are anything but self-evident. And they must always be lived out and defended anew,” she told guests from across the continent.

On November 9, 1989, East German border guards, overwhelmed by large crowds, threw open the gates to West Berlin, allowing free passage for the first time since the Berlin Wall was built.

The momentous event would end up bringing the communist regime crashing down, leading to German reunification a year later and heralding the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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