Tuesday, 05 May 2020

Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk listed two of his California homes for sale Sunday, days after announcing that he would get rid of most of his possessions.

He’s seeking a combined $39.5 million for the Bel Air properties, including one that was previously owned by the late Gene Wilder, according to the listings on Zillow. Both are for sale by owner.

Musk, 48, posted more than a dozen tweets in less than 75 minutes on Friday, including one in which he said he’s selling “almost all” of his physical possessions. In another, he said he believed Tesla’s stock price was too high, prompting a 10% plunge on the day.

As for high-end Los Angeles real estate, it’s not exactly a seller’s market at the moment. Sales of luxury homes already were suffering from a supply glut and weak demand before the coronavirus pandemic stopped most showings. Fewer buyers were coming from China, Russia and the Middle East amid international tensions, and limits on state and local tax deductions dampened the appeal of owning California homes for wealthy U.S. buyers.

With demand slowing, more and more would-be sellers are taking their homes off the market, said Beverly Hills real estate agent Jade Mills. But shrinking inventory means some homes will still find buyers.

“People are still having to move and relocate, even within California,” she said. “I’m seeing people still having to buy and sell. This isn’t necessarily bad timing.”

Even with Friday’s stock swoon and the pandemic, Musk and Tesla are having a pretty good 2020.

The shares surged 68% this year through Friday, helping to boost his net worth by $8.3 billion, the second-most of anyone in the 500-member Bloomberg Billionaires Index, after Amazon.com Inc.’s Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person. Musk ranks No. 24 on the list, with a $35.9 billion fortune. Tesla rebounded Monday, advancing 4.7% to $734.08 at 1:38 p.m. in New York.

Musk bought the two homes in 2012 and 2013 for a total of about $24 million. They form part of a five-house collection he owns overlooking Bel-Air Country Club.

In 2018 he turned to Morgan Stanley for $61 million of mortgages. The two homes he’s now looking to unload account for about $26.3 million of that total.

Bel Air is among the most expensive districts in Los Angeles. The median home value in the 90077 ZIP code is $2.78 million, according to Zillow. Notable Bel Air homeowners include Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Beyonce.


- Bloomberg

Published in Business

Since President Muhammadu Buhari came to power in Nigeria in 2015, anti-corruption has been at the heart of his administration. However, a lot of effort is focused on grand corruption at the higher levels of governance and politics. There is less emphasis on the less-talked-about but vulnerable areas such as the health sector.

We have been involved as researchers in an extensive study of health sector corruption in Nigeria. The study interacted with front-line health workers and health policy makers and managers. The aim was to systematically identify the different types of corruption occurring in the Nigerian health sector, and rank them based on how damaging they can be to the health sector.

The drivers and potential solutions to these health sector corruption problems were also identified, as well as recommendations on how to mitigate corruption in the sector. In the end we hope to explore and bring to the fore feasible grassroots solutions to the problem of health sector corruption in Nigeria.

In the war against COVID-19, health system resilience, accountability and integrity are more important than ever. The health systems of some high-income-countries have become overwhelmed by the rising number of infected persons and deaths from the disease. Weaker, corruption-prone and less resilient health systems of many low and middle income countries are even more vulnerable. Some may even collapse.

Research has underscored the vulnerability of Nigeria’s health system. A consistently solid and accountable health system has eluded the country. The requisite health resources are also in short supply.

The reality is that citizens, health workers and international development partners worry that Nigeria’s health system is very weak and may be unable to adequately combat COVID-19.

Money management issues

Contributing to the weakness of the system is the federal and state governments’ very low budgetary allocation to the health sector.

Nigeria’s health sector appropriation in the 2020 budget is 4.5% of the total federal budget, about N427.3 billion. This is far below the 15% agreed in the 2001 Abuja Declaration, when African Union member countries pledged to improve spending on their health sector and urged donor countries to scale up support.

Following recent collapse in the international price of crude oil, the budget has now been revised downward.

Concerns about budget are valid. But of equal weight is the issue of the optimal management of presently allocated funds. This continues to be an underlying problem.

In a paper published last year health workers and decision makers set out to explain the reasons that corruption persists in the healthcare sector.

They identified the top 49 corrupt practices in the Nigerian health system. These included absenteeism, procurement-related corruption, under-the-counter payments, health financing-related corruption, and employment-related corruption.

Discussions with health workers in an ongoing study on COVID-19 spanning different regions in Nigeria echo these findings. Health workers have indicated that there are structural and facility-level corruption and accountability issues that they have to work with routinely. These compromise their efforts to do their jobs as healthcare providers, including containing COVID-19 and its impacts.

We also found that there were high levels of distrust in the government, poor welfare conditions for health workers and health service users, and a lack of proper equipment.

What needs to be done

Patricia Garcia, a leading figure on global health issues, believes that for most developing countries, “with more money comes more corruption”.

Nigeria is certainly a case in point.

So what can be done about it?

The previous journal publication on Nigeria noted that front-line workers and policymakers agreed that tackling corrupt practices requires a range of approaches.

Garcia herself advocates an incremental approach to tackling the problem.

We could start from the bottom up, taking small steps. We need rigorous research methods to prove or disprove that a strategy works. Addressing and ending corruption will require the participation of researchers from several disciplines and multiple approaches, and the commitment of funders to supporting serious research. Corruption in global health should not continue as an open secret, it has to be confronted and brought to light.

The rapid spread of COVID-19 in Nigeria calls for sincerity on the parts of the authorities, the health workers and citizens. It also demands vigilance from civil society organisations and the mass media to foster accountability.

During the Ebola outbreak, Transparency International reported how systemic corruption in West Africa’s health sector undermined the response. Unfortunately, the lessons seem to have parted with the epidemic. We hope that lessons from dealing with COVID-19 will strengthen the health system in Nigeria and put in place stiff anti-corruption measures.

We will undertake further studies on health system corruption and accountability through a new project that is funded by the UK’s Joint Health System Research Initiative, entitled “Understanding and eliminating health sector corruption impeding UHC at district level in Nigeria and Malawi: institutions, individuals and incentives”.​The Conversation


Obinna Onwujekwe, Professor of Health Economics and Policy and Pharmaco-economics/pharmaco-epidemiology in the Departments of Health Administration & Management and Pharmacology and Therapeutics, College of Medicine, University of Nigeria; Charles Orjiakor, Lecturer , University of Nigeria, and Prince Agwu -, Researcher in the Department of Social Work, University of Nigeria

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

Published in Economy

Oil prices rose on Tuesday, extending gains from the previous session, on expectations that fuel demand will begin to recover as some U.S. states and nations in Europe and Asia start to ease coronavirus lockdown measures.

West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 futures rose as much as 8.2% to a three-week high of $22.06 per barrel and were up 6.5%, or $1.33, at $21.72 at 0454 GMT. The U.S. benchmark is on a five-day win streak that started on April 29.

Brent crude LCOc1 futures hit a high of $28.57 a barrel and were up 4.8%, or $1.31, at $28.51. Brent is up for a sixth straight day.

Prospects improved for fuel demand as some U.S. states and several countries, including Italy, Spain, Portugal, India and Thailand, began allowing some people to go back to work and opened up construction sites, parks and libraries.

"Considering ... the depths of demand destruction, markets are probably inclined to take any good news relatively quickly," said Daniel Hynes, senior commodity strategist at Australia and New Zealand Banking Group.

Reflecting hope that the oil industry may have passed the worst point of coronavirus-induced lockdowns, hedge funds and money managers were buyers of petroleum derivatives for a fifth straight week to the week ended on April 28.

Still, global oil demand probably collapsed by as much as 30% in April, analysts have said, and the recovery is likely to be slow, especially with airlines expected to remain largely grounded for months to come.

Australian national carrier Qantas Airways' (QAN.AX) Chief Executive Alan Joyce said on Tuesday that "international travel demand could take years to return to what it was."

"Travel demand is essentially zero for the foreseeable future," United Airlines Holdings Inc spokesman Frank Benenati said. The Chicago-based carrier plans to cut at least 3,400 management and administrative positions in October.

With Saudi Arabia, Russia other major producers and companies slashing output, the market shrugged off a decision by a Texas energy regulator to abandon his proposal for a 20% output cut in the United States' biggest oil-producing state.

"The intent in itself was positive - but it was always going to be a long shot," Hynes said.

U.S. crude oil stockpiles were seen rising for a 15th consecutive week, while inventories of oil products also likely built last week, a preliminary Reuters poll showed.

Citi analysts expect that as demand returns significant production curtailments will turn the record inventory builds of the second quarter into record draws in the third quarter.



Published in Engineering

In a time of crisis, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, people’s willingness to donate money increases significantly, however, the beneficiaries of these donations, such as funds and non-profit organisations (NGOs), are often less than transparent about the tax implications for donors.

Equally, most people seem ignorant of the rules that govern donations especially with the fast changing financial policies government in implementing in response to COVID-19 support – whether in the case of private donations, or payroll giving – and that these can be used as a way to claim tax deductions or reduce your payable tax, based on supporting various approved section 18A causes, or the Solidarity Fund.

Giving is a critical part of society, it’s what makes society more just and pleasant. However, it is worrying when charity funds pop up, especially during a time of crisis, and simply appeal to people to donate, with the promise of a tax benefit.

But we need to be clear, as society, about what tax deductions are allowed and how this works, especially in times such as these, when people feel that it is important to give towards a cause. It’s an emotive issue, but it cannot be based on a knee-jerk reaction. Donations should form part of your financial planning. A tax calculator can help you determine what tax rebates you can expect from donations

It is highly misleading to set up a fund and declare that all donations are tax deductible, without laying out the parameters and regulations that govern donations, as per Section 18A of the Income Tax Act.

Know the limits

In South Africa, companies that wish to donate funds need to know that legislation only allows for an amount of R10 000 a year to be used to gain a tax rebate. Above that amount, the donation will get taxed at 20% on their donation, however Section 18A Approved organisations, with A Public Benefits Organisations status, are exempt from this limit. This is a separate tax and is managed as such. In the case that you give an employee R12 000 as a donation (from the R10 000 limit), you will be required to pay 20% on the 2k. If the donations is to an PBO, then the amounts donated are exempt from the limit, however the claim amount is capped at 10% of taxable income per year, and if amounts are given over the 10%, the ‘tax saving’ will be carried forward to the next financial year.

Similarly, individuals are can give up to R100 000 a year tax free, after which they will also have to pay tax 20% for non deductible donations between R100 000 to R3.5 million and then a tax of between 20-25% applies on any amount donated above the R100 000. Donations to SARS approved Section 18A Public Benefit Organisations are excluded from the limit too, and again other limits do apply on your ‘tax saving’ planning for donations. Such as the 10% that can be claimed per year. Donations to the Solidarity Fund have a limit of 20% and the donation cap for employees, giving through payroll giving, may be going up from 5% to around 33%, which is a substantial tax saving for the donor.

It is, therefore, important to dispel the initial confusion that is created by funds and Section 18A approved organisations that are marketed as tax deductibles, when people are not savvy enough to know the limits. In fairness, people should be given a chance to decide how much they can donate, and manage their tax more effectively.

Perhaps some of the confusion around donations and tax rebates speaks to the underlying regulation around taxation, and that it is not really followed in a lot of cases. The legislation has been around for as long as NGOs have been collecting donations. Yet, only a few of them manage their Section 18A certificates diligently, others will only do it when asked. This means that society is missing out hugely on tax savings.

Building relationships

Becoming more savvy about the tax implications of donating money and donating amounts that allow donors – both individual and corporate – to take advantage of tax rebates is not only good for the taxpayer, but also for the beneficiaries. If donations are based on sound financial planning, it allows people to build relationships with causes and support them in the long term. While you get your tax benefit, the beneficiaries can plan their work better, based on expected donations.

I would also call for more transparency from the side of NGOs and charity funds. In many cases, money is given, but then there is no one to account for where this money goes or what exactly it is being used for. Funds donated should contribute to several key issues in South Africa. Donor’s don’t need to know where the funds go; however, transparency in this regard will go a long way in further donations. Yet – despite protocols being in place for donations – numbers are often misrepresented, and money is seldom accounted for at the level required

Companies, regulators, charities and individuals need to work together to get greater clarity in this area, and this conversation needs to happen soon. In some respects, the regulations are unclear, yet we expect people to continue donating.

During a time of crisis, charities and funds become our go-to places to help others. Perhaps we should start looking at the business of donating a bit more seriously.

Published in Opinion & Analysis
  1. Opinions and Analysis


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