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Thursday, May 19, 2016

National Health Insurance cards will not be deleted from the electoral roll.

The Electoral Commission says names of persons who registered with National Health Insurance cards will not be deleted from the electoral roll.
At an Inter - Party Advisory Committee meeting on Thursday, May 19, the Commission said the Supreme Court did not order it to delete names of NHIS registrants.
On Thursday, May 5, the Supreme Court ordered the Electoral Commission to delete from the electoral roll names of persons who have not established qualification to be on the register as well as deceased persons and minors.
The Court granted a relief sought by Abu Ramadan and another that, "the current register of voters which contains the names of persons who have not established qualification to be registered is not reasonably accurate or credible."
It also ordered that "(a) The Electoral Commission takes steps immediately to delete or as is popularly known ‘clean” the current register of voters to comply with the provisions of the 1992 Constitution, and applicable laws of Ghana; [and] That any person whose name is deleted from the register of voters by the Electoral Commission pursuant to order (a) above be given the opportunity to register under the law."
Interpretation
The judgment was interpreted to mean that the court was referring to persons who used the NHIS cards as proof of citizenship to register to vote when it talked about 'persons who have not established qualification to be on the register.'
The lawyer for the two, Nana Asante Bediatuo hinted that they may go back to the Court to seek clarity on some aspects of the judgment requiring cleaning of the Voters' Register.
EC on the judgment
The EC appears to have been persuaded by the argument that the Supreme Court's order had nothing to do with NHIS card registrants.
The Commission in a statement after it received a certified copy of the judgment said it is committed to cleaning the electoral roll.
The Commission noted that it would conduct an audit that will involve removal of deceased registered voters, removal of multiple registrations (with the help of the AFIS software), removal of alleged minors and non-Ghanaians based on the production of evidence.
After revealing at the IPAC meeting that it will not delete names of NHIS registrants, the Commission in a statement signed by the Deputy Chair (corporate services) Georgina Opoku Amankwaa indicated that:
"The Electoral Commission and its legal advisers have carefully studied the recent judgment of the Supreme Court on May 5, 2016, in respect of the case of “Abu Ramadan & Evans Nimako vrs The Electoral Commission & The Attorney- General”."
Read the full statement from the Commission below
EC TO IMPLEMENT SUPREME COURT ORDERS  
The Electoral Commission and its legal advisers have carefully studied the recent judgment of the Supreme Court on May 5, 2016 in respect of the case of “Abu Ramadan & Evans Nimako vrs The Electoral Commission & The Attorney- General”.  
The Commission confirms that it accepts the ruling of the Supreme Court which ordered that:  
(a) the Electoral Commission takes steps immediately to delete or as is popularly known ‘clean” the current register of voters to comply with the provisions of the 1992 Constitution, and applicable laws of Ghana;  
(b) any person whose name is deleted from the register of voters by the Electoral Commission pursuant to order (a) above be given the opportunity to register under the law. 
The Commission is of the view that the directives of the Apex Court are clear and emphasize the processes already laid down in the law for cleaning the voters’ register. The Supreme Court was of the view that these processes are ‘ample and sufficient’ to remove the names of ineligible and deceased persons from the register. 
The Supreme Court essentially held as follows: 
1. That the Electoral Commission has a duty to compile a credible register, and in so doing, must act within the remits of the Constitution and applicable law. 
2.  That the existing law has made ample and sufficient provisions for ineligible names to be deleted during the exhibition of the provisional register but such deletions must be in accordance with the applicable law; 
3. For persons who registered with NHIA cards, such registrations were lawful at the time of registration, and the subsequent declaration of unconstitutionality in the earlier Abu Ramadan case, does not automatically render them void’. Such a position according to the Supreme Court, “would have the effect of disenfranchising the persons affected. Such registrations should only be deleted by means of processes established under the law”. 
4. The process of validation proposed by the petitioners is without statutory authority and in “carrying out its functions, the Electoral Commission cannot employ non-statutory remedies”. 
Further, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected the following reliefs requested by the Petitioners: 
1. That the current register of voters is unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect; 
2. That the Electoral Commission be compelled to compile a fresh Register of voters; 
3. That the Electoral Commission be compelled (as an alternative to compiling a new register), to audit the current Register of voters through validation of the registration of each person currently on the register (as defined by the petitioners).  
The Judgment of the Supreme Court affirms the Commission’s consistent position on the status of the current Voters’ register and the mechanisms for cleaning it, to make it acceptable to all stakeholders. The EC remains willing and committed to ensuring a clean register prior to the elections in accordance with the law.  
However, the Commission wishes to remind the public that all stakeholders in the political process have a key duty to support and work with the Commission in ensuring a cleaner and more credible register. As unanimously agreed by all the political stakeholders at an earlier Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) meeting in March this year, the mechanisms outlined by the Commission for cleaning  the register are Inclusive, Collaborative, Legal and Transparent.  
It must be noted that the EC by itself, has no power under any law currently in force, to unilaterally delete the names of persons from the register. For the avoidance of doubt, we wish to state that under the existing and applicable law, where a person’s registration is challenged during a registration process, that challenge must be referred to a District Registration Review Committee (DRRC) for determination. The EC is only permitted to act on the decision of the
DRRC following the determination of the challenge to delete or maintain the name of the challenged person on the register. 
Similarly, for persons who are already on the Provisional Register, the law requires that an objection is made during the exhibition process either by a registered voter or an official of the Commission. These objections are then referred to the District Registration Review Officer (DRRO) for determination. The Commission is required by the law to act on the decision of the DRRO following determination of the objection. 
As an institution that derives its existence from the law, the Electoral Commission cannot be seen to be acting arbitrarily. We are delighted that the Supreme Court agrees with us on this position. In complying with the directives of the Apex Court, the Commission intends to fully follow the applicable law.  
The Commission is urging all stakeholders in the political process to join us in working to ensure a cleaner register ahead of this year’s election. 
Finally, the Commission looks forward to working with all citizens of Ghana towards ensuring a peaceful, transparent, trusted, independent and world- class electoral process. 

Alleged misappropriation of funds at the Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Agency (GYEEDA).

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament has expressed its dissatisfaction in what it described as a deliberate attempt by the government to shield service providers under the Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Agency (GYEEDA).
The Committee says the government has failed to produce the service providers for questioning with regards to some alleged misappropriation of funds at the agency.
The audited report of 2013 disclosed some misappropriation of funds at the agency in 2012. It also came to light that some of the service providers have been given money for services they have not executed. 
As a result, a Joy News revelation in April 2014 over the alleged fraudulent manner with which some of the contracts were awarded resulted in the termination of all the service contracts between the agency and its service providers, except the sanitation module.
An engagement of the service providers by the Attorney-General (A-G) led to the reimbursement of millions of cedis they earned from the agency for doing nothing. However, others have failed to repay the money arguing they fulfilled their part of the bargain.
At its sitting on May 16 to continued its work on the Audited report for 2012, 2013 and 2014, PAC registered its frustration before the Employment and Labor Minister, Haruna Iddrisu for failing to come along with the providers.
The Minister, however, disclosed he failed to produce the service providers because “I thought that once it was us acting as public officials engaging them, it was important that you got our clarity before we proceeded to that.”
Speaking to Joy News, Member of Parliament (MP) for Atwima/Mponua, Isaac Asiamah said it is unhealthy for the government to engage in ‘hide and seek’ game with the Committee considering the delicate nature of the issue at hand.
“Why are they reluctant to bring these service providers?” he asked adding the companies must be made to refund the money paid them.
He said about ten companies have been cited in the misappropriation of GYEEDA funds, yet none of them has been produced before the Committee.
He charged the government to produce the service producers such as the Ghana Young Artisans Movement and Seywaa Engineering Works before the Committee for “Ghanaians to see that these are the people who created and looted our funds.”
According to him, when companies that cause some financial loss to the country are held to account, it will compel others “to be serious, [and] they will not take State money [thinking they will] go scot free.”
In a related development, Parliament resumed sitting on May 16 following its brief break.
It is expected to consider 29 bills including the presidential transition amendment bill and an amendment to the 1992 Constitution to hold the elections in November 2016

Friday, April 17, 2015

Oil Prices Became The Main Topic That Closed 2014

Oil prices became the main topic that closed 2014 and the main topic to begin 2015. Many people are facing up to the crude awakening of a consistent drop in world oil prices in a manner never seen before.
The oil industry, with its history of booms and busts, appears to be in the latent stages of its latest downturn. Since June 2014 the price of oil has plunged more than 55% to $47 a barrel as at the second week of January 2015; that is the lowest price since the depth of the 2009 recession.
Oil analysts predict that the price could fall below $40 before it rebounds. The fall of oil prices has been so steep that not a business day goes without mention of a new drop in price, prompting business people and decision makers to wonder how suddenly unpredictable the terrain has become and they are taking measures to counter the numerous challenges posed by the fall in price.
Slippery Slide
The key factor causing the continuous slide in the price of oil is demand and supply economics. Supply has outstripped demand since the third quarter of 2013. Global Demand (long term) and specifically from China is low because of weak economic activity.  China’s opening to world trade was responsible for lifting the oil price from around $20 a barrel to around $100. This price move correlates approximately with China joining the World Trade Organization at the beginning of the last decade; in which period, China alone added the equivalent of Japanese and U.K. total oil consumption to existing demand.
Even though China’s oil imports reached seven million barrels for the first time in December 2014, oil product demand is slowing as Chinese consumption becomes more efficient and less oil intensive. China’s appetite for crude imports will also plateau once it completes building its Strategic Petroleum Reserves.
A second factor is that, the United States has suddenly become the world’s largest oil producer. Though it does not export crude oil, it now imports much less, creating a lot of spare supply. According to Energy Information Administration (EIA) data, the U.S. alone added nine million new barrels of crude oil per day to the global market in 2014 which is a considerable chunk of the global crude production of 91 million barrels per day.
The US continues to cut imports from OPEC and stopped importing crude from Nigeria all together. The downside of the US oil production is, it is relatively more expensive and analysts suggest that US shale oil production can only survive on $70 dollar per barrel, hence the current prices of oil makes the US production not competitive in the medium term.
OilgraphThirdly, turmoil in Iraq and Libya – two big oil producers with nearly 4m barrels a day combined – has not affected their output as was expected. The oil market has historically thrived whenever there was a real or imagined threat to supply which, invariably pushed prices up because countries buy and store more than they would ordinarily need. During this same period, OPEC, led to a large extent by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have decided not to cut production which would have stopped the slide of prices. OPEC could curb production sharply, but there is a theory, albeit conspiracy that OPEC curbing prices would benefit Iran and Russia – countries they are not really fond of. Saudi Arabia can tolerate lower oil prices quite easily. It has $900 billion in oil reserves. Its own oil costs about $5-6 per barrel to produce – theoretically and all things being equal, they could go even lower than current prices of $47 per barrel.
Source: European Energy Review
The reasons oil prices started sliding in June 2014 were hiding in plain sight: growth in US shale production, stagnating demand from Europe and China, and Mideast violence that threatened to disrupt supplies but never did.
To understand the current fall, we first have to go back to the mid 2000s. Oil prices were rising sharply because global demand was surging — especially in China — and there wasn’t enough oil production to keep up, leading to large price spikes where oil prices averaged $100 per barrel between 2011 and mid 2014.
At those high prices, many companies started producing from previously expensive sources. In the US, companies began using techniques like fracking and horizontal drilling to extract oil from shale formations in North Dakota and Texas. In Canada, companies were heating Alberta’s oil sands with steam to extract usable crude. With the current fall in price of oil however, it is no longer profitable for companies to continue oil production using these techniques.
In October 2014, the International Energy Agency cut its global oil demand forecast for the fourth time in a row and by November, OPEC was meeting to decide on their next steps. In the past, OPEC has sometimes tried to influence the price of oil by coordinating to either cut back or boost production. Surprisingly, OPEC took a decision not to cut production for the next six months; as a result the price of Brent crude went from $80 per barrel to $70 per barrel in a few days and kept tumbling to below $60 per barrel by mid-December.
OPEC countries, like Venezuela and Iran were in favour of cutting back on production in order to push up the price. These countries need high prices in order to break even on their budgets and pay for their governments heavy spending.
It really does not make sense for OPEC to hold production at 30 million barrels a day considering that the current price of oil has adverse effects on some of its members. For example, member countries like Nigeria, Ecuador and Iran need the oil price to be around $120 dollars to break even. There is also growing concern that the steep fall in price could hurt Venezuela’s economy, which is set to shrink 3% in 2015. Saudi Arabia, the kingpin of OPEC itself is not immune from the effects of the low price of oil. As the world’s second largest crude producer (after Russia), Saudi Arabia will still run a deficit equal to 14 percent of its budget should prices hover even at a moderate price of $60 per barrel.
Perhaps the key to understanding the reasons why Saudi Arabia would push for keeping production at the same level lies in understanding the effects the falling prices has on non OPEC countries like Russia and the Unites States, as well as competing production from shale oil.
Russia is heavily dependent on oil and gas production — with oil revenues making up 45% of the government’s budget. Bloomberg reports that Russia’s GDP will shrink at least 4.5% in 2015 even if oil stayed at $60 per barrel. The plunging price of oil has also caused the value of the Russian currency to collapse — which is leading to panic inside Russia and a rise in inflation as imports become drastically more expensive. Even at $50 dollars a barrel, Russia is set to lose at least $45 billion rising to as high as $90 billion if prices decline further. There are those who link Saudi Arabia/OPEC’s stance to the effect it has on Russia (who remain unpopular since the Crimea affair) and they may be right, after all there is a historical antecedent – when Saudi Arabia decided to increase production suddenly from two million barrels per day to 10 million barrels per day, it led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
America is not laughing yet; the falling price of oil makes its shale oil development unprofitable. If oil stays below $60 per barrel, some US companies will cancel or scale back shale oil production, especially those who have borrowed and invested heavily with high crude prices in mind. The US Energy Information Administration still expects that overall US oil production will grow another 700,000 barrels per day in 2015 — though that’s slightly lower than the prediction when prices were high.
In the US, Alaska, North Dakota, Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana will face economic challenges since they are states heavily dependent on shale oil revenues. Some smaller oil companies that are heavily in debt may go out of business or be acquired by bigger players. For consumers however, the fall is good in the short term as this will lead to fall in fuel price and by extension an increase in disposable income. In the US for example, gasoline prices have fallen to $2.47 per gallon, the lowest since 2009.
End to the Turmoil?
As John Maynard Keynes famously said ‘ in the long run we are all dead’. This works true, if you replace ‘we’ with ‘consumers’. In the long run, oil always finds its true price level, which is often a price suppliers comfortably determine (as much as they claim otherwise).
Just like previous bust and boom cycles, there are key things to look out for in 2015.
First with gasoline prices falling lower and lower, disposable income will increase. Already in the US sale of high fuel consumption cars is rising. Invariably, the International Energy Agency (IEA) will raise their global demand forecast since lower fuel prices will increase demand.
Another thing to look out for is mergers and acquisitions. The major and large oil companies with high revenues will swoop in to take advantage of the situation to buy up some distressed smaller companies at bargain prices.
Active rigs count will drop rapidly. US oil production will continue to increase during the first quarter of 2015, slow in the second quarter and be flat to declining by the third quarter. American oil production does not auger well for 2015 based on its response to falling prices.
The price of oil will rebound before the end of the 2nd quarter. Price will not return to $100 per barrel anytime soon, primarily because of the strength of the U.S. dollar and other short term factors. We should expect $70 – $80 as the price of oil before end of year. Of course much hinges on what OPEC decides to do at the end of the first quarter of 2015 as to whether it will cut production.
Russia on the other hand is on the brink and may well turn out to be the biggest loser in this whole decline in oil prices. Russia’s attempts to produce more oil to sell for more dollars is not sustainable, On the other hand it also cannot close its very expensive oil production installations unless something drastic happens, expect Russia and Venezuelan economies in 2015 to suffer their worst performance in recent decades.
The continuous fall in the price of oil has certainly been a crude awakening in the economic and geopolitical arena with accompanying conspiracy theories. In the long run, this will become a little water under the bridge and in time OPEC – a slick business group – will always ensure that they preserve their oil wells