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Steel industry calls for state support to avoid ‘full blown crisis’

Steel industry

Steel industry calls for state support to avoid ‘full blown crisis’

The steel industry has called for urgent state support to avoid a “full blown steel crisis”, warning that plans to issue loans to soften the impact of soaring gas prices “won’t address the problem”.

As industry leaders voiced dismay at the perceived lack of support from government, trade unions wrote to the prime minister warning he was at risk of making a “historic mistake with devastating consequences” for an industry employing 32,000 people.

Uncertainty about how to support power-hungry industries such as steel has already sparked a political row between the Treasury and the business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, over whether to offer financial support.

While the Treasury is understood to be reluctant to fund a bailout, ministers are weighing up proposals from Kwarteng to provide short-term loans or guarantees while gas prices are high, to help sectors such as steel, glass, chemicals and paper.

Representatives from the industry met officials from BEIS on Tuesday but left disappointed at a lack of detail on the proposals and concerned that the loan plan won’t help.

“If it is only these loans that are on the table, then for the steel industry that won’t address the problem,” UK Steel’s director, Gareth Stace, told the Guardian.

“We need to get back round that table to discuss and agree better solutions.”

Three steelworkers’ unions – Community, the GMB and Unite wrote to the prime minister on Tuesday, urging action to protect thousands of jobs.

“The seriousness of the situation requires swift and decisive action from government. But it seems government ministers have been too busy squabbling, and that’s why we wrote to the prime minister urging him to get a grip and act to resolve this crisis before it is too late.”

In their letter to the prime minister, the steelworkers’ unions said other European countries had provided assistance to their own steelmakers.

“Brexit was supposed to make it easier for the government to back British industry and British jobs, but all we are seeing is the same old procrastination and excuses for doing nothing,” they wrote.

UK Steel had earlier backed Kwarteng in calling for assistance from the chancellor, Rishi Sunak. The Treasury initially appeared to reject, issuing an unusual reprimand to the business secretary for suggesting help might be available.

Since the split, officials from the departments are understood to have thrashed out the short-term lending plan.

But UK Steel said this would leave the industry still battling against a “hostile environment” and at risk of shutdowns.

In an earlier statement, Stace said: “Our message directly to the prime minister is please don’t just apply a sticking plaster to what is a significant long-term problem. Action can and must be taken now to secure the foundations of British industry.”

Kwarteng met representatives from industries including steel, paper, glass and chemicals on Friday and again on Monday, to hear their arguments for longer-term help, such as measures to ease electricity costs, which are high relative to European peers.

Stace said any measures to help steel had to put UK producers on a “level playing field” with overseas rivals.

“If any package delivers less than this and we still continue to pay more for energy than French and German steel producers and we remain at a competitive disadvantage,” he said.

“Steel producers here in the UK will continue to have to pause steel production, will be less efficient and will lose margins and market share.

“This is a hostile environment for industrial investment in the UK and for the government’s levelling-up agenda.”

The business department said the steel industry’s international competitors were often benefiting from pricing regimes that transferred the cost of industrial energy usage onto households.

“Ministers and officials continue to engage constructively with industry to further understand and to help mitigate the impacts of high global gas prices,” said a spokesperson.

“Our priority is to ensure costs are managed and supplies of energy are maintained.

“Some countries on the continent have lower industrial electricity prices in part because some costs are recovered from consumer bills.”

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New Naira Notes Ready For Issuance- CBN

Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, has said the newly redesigned Naira notes are already in banks and ready for issuance.

In a statement on its official twitter handle, the CBN quoted Emefiele to have made the disclosure in Daura, Katsina State, while on a visit to brief the president on the Naira redesign and the recently reintroduced cashless policy.

“The newly redesigned N200, N500, and N1,000 banknotes are now in banks and ready for issuance to members of the public,” the statement said.

The CBN governor clarified that the currency redesign and reintroduced cashless policies were not targeted at anybody but were for the good and development of the Nigerian economy, and urged Nigerians to embrace the various electronic channels available for banking and financial service transactions in Nigeria.

Emefiele further said the CBN deferred the cashless policy severally to prepare and deepen Nigeria’s payments system infrastructure.

He, therefore, advised Nigerians to take their old N200, N500, and N1,000 banknotes to the banks before the January 31, 2023 deadline.

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NIBSS Says e-Payment Transactions Hit N38.9trn In November

The Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement Systems (NIBSS) has revealed that transactions worth N38.9 trillion were performed electronically in November through the NIBSS Instant Payment platform (NIP).

This is the highest monthly transaction record on the platform.

Compared with the N34.5 trillion recorded in the preceding month, the November figure also shows a 12.7 per cent increase.

The latest data also shows that the November figure brought the total value of NIP deals in the last 11 months to N345 trillion.

Year on year, the e-payment value increased by 50 per cent compared with the N25.9 trillion recorded in November last year.

The value of the e-payment recorded was a reflection of the increase in the volume of deals within the month. The NIP volume rose to 492.2 million in November, showing a 53.8 per cent increase over the N319.9 million recorded in the same period last year.

The NIP is an account-number-based, online-real-time Inter-Bank payment solution developed in the year 2011 by NIBSS. It is the Nigerian financial industry’s preferred funds transfer platform that guarantees instant value to the beneficiary.

According to NIBSS, over the years, Nigerian banks have exposed NIP through their various channels, that is, internet banking, bank branch, Kiosks, mobile apps, Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD), POS, ATMs, etc. to their customers.

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CBN Insists It Won’t Reverse New Withdrawal Policy

Godwin Emefiele, Governor of the Central Bank, says there would be no reversal on the new cash withdrawal policy adding that the limitations was not intended to hurt anyone.

He disclosed this on Thursday following his visit to President Muhammadu Buhari in Daura, Katsina State.

The National Assembly had earlier faulted the CBN’s unveiling of revised cash withdrawal limits with a maximum of N100,000 for individuals and N500,000 for companies, claiming that it might worsen the current economic situation.

But while reacting to the objections from the National Assembly and the public outcry over the cash withdrawal policy, Emefiele said;

“And we think Nigeria, as the biggest economy in Africa, needs to leapfrog into the cashless economy.

“We cannot continue to allow a situation where over 85 per cent of the cash that is in circulation is outside the bank.

“More and more countries that are embracing digitisation have gone cashless,” he said.

He added that there would be no rigidity on the policy and no reversal, appealing to Nigerians to embrace the new policy.

According to the Governor of the CBN, the new naira notes have already been disbursed to the various commercial banks and expects that the banks would begin distribution to the public.

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