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Trapped forex: More airlines to suspend Nigerian operations

Trapped forex: More airlines to suspend Nigerian operations

• British Airways informs passengers of imminent airfares’ hike

More international carriers are gearing to join the Emirates Airlines which announced, on Thursday, the suspension of its flight operations in Nigeria from September 1, 2022, our correspondents gathered.

The British Airways has already reduced their flight frequencies to Nigeria, as the airline informed its passengers on Thursday of an imminent hike in the cost of its flight tickets.

The international airlines are halting operations in Nigeria and raising airfares because of their inability to repatriate funds to their home countries.

In June this year, The PUNCH reported that the International Air Transport Association expressed concerns over the decision by the Federal Government of Nigeria to block foreign airlines from repatriating ticket sales revenue running into $450m (N188.6bn) into their respective countries.

Nigeria gets about 90 per cent of its United States dollar from the sale of crude oil. However, the country has consistently not been able to meet its approved crude production quota on a monthly basis due to massive oil theft.

This has severely impacted on the country’s foreign exchange earnings, making it tough for the Central Bank of Nigeria to make dollar accessible for repatriation by foreign airlines with operations in Nigeria.

As a fall-out of the continued inability of Emirates Airlines to repatriate its funds, the carrier announced in a statement on Thursday that its flight operations in Nigeria would be suspended from September 1, 2022.

In its statement, Emirates Airlines stated that it “has tried every avenue to address our ongoing challenges in repatriating funds from Nigeria, and we have made considerable efforts to initiate dialogue with the relevant authorities for their urgent intervention to help find a viable solution.”

It added, “Regrettably there has been no progress. Therefore, Emirates has taken the difficult decision to suspend all flights to and from Nigeria, effective September 1, 2022, to limit further losses and impact on our operational costs that continue to accumulate in the market.

“We sincerely regret the inconvenience caused to our customers, however the circumstances are beyond our control at this stage. We will be working to help impacted customers make alternative travel arrangements wherever possible.”

It, however, noted that should there be any positive developments in the coming days regarding Emirates’ blocked funds in Nigeria, the airline would, of course, re-evaluate its decision.

“We remain keen to serve Nigeria, and our operations provide much needed connectivity for Nigerian travellers, providing access to trade and tourism opportunities to Dubai, and to our broader network of over 130 destinations,” the global carrier stated.

Reacting to this, the President, Association of Foreign Airlines and Representatives in Nigeria, Kingsley Nwokeoma, said more international carriers would join Emirates Airlines soon if nothing was done to address their concerns.

He said, “This is just the beginning. It is over $1 billion dollars that is being held and they (foreign airlines) cannot repatriate it. If other countries are like Nigeria, there will not be any industry because this money is used for maintenance. Even the money used to pay their staff in Nigeria is coming from other climes.

“Aviation industry is all about 100 per cent safety. If there is no money, safety will not be 100 per cent guaranteed. So, it is going to continue. Emirates has kick-started it and I’m sure that you are aware that British Airways has cut flights into Nigeria and that is how it is going to start.

“Just like Emirates did, they will first of all cut their flight into Nigeria and they will look at it holistically again and if it is not working out, then it’s not working out. This did not start today. It started over the years and the government is not doing anything.”

Nwokeoma added, “Look at it this way, when things were not this bad, what commitment did the government make? Is it now that things are gloomy? So, we hope that we don’t have to go to Benin Republic, Togo or Ghana before we can fly out or do our international travels.”

The foreign airlines’ representative observed that most passengers from Nigeria travelled to Dubai and the Middle East using Emirates Airlines.

“So if they are not coming into Nigeria, it means there is going to be a big vacuum which nobody can fill. It will continue because the airlines will start reducing frequencies,” he stated.

Nwokeoma added, “I keep asking this question that if other climes are behaving like Nigeria, will there be an aviation sector? The airplanes that come in are not our freight. They have to pay Boeing, they pay AirBus, they pay all these people, they have a payment scheme and where is the money coming from? So, it is an issue.”

Meanwhile in a notice to its passengers through various travel agents on Thursday, British Airways stated that it was changing to full fares any moment from now.

The notice read, “Good afternoon. Please be informed that information reaching us from BA indicates that the airline is changing to full fares F, J, W and Y any moment from now. Kindly let (us) issue any pending tickets to avoid fare increase.”

When asked to explain what the notice implied, Nwokeoma stated, “It is basically to cover for the dollar loss, but some airlines are doing it already. So, that means air tickets will be more expensive.

“It will be more expensive because it will now be in relationship with the black market rate. So the F, J, W, Y middle seats will be more expensive.”

The International Air Transport Association Regional Vice President, Kamil Alawadhi, said, “IATA is disappointed that the amount of airline money blocked from repatriation by the Nigerian government grew to $464 million in July. This is airline money and its repatriation is protected by international agreements in which Nigeria participates. IATA’s many warnings that failure to restore timely repatriation will hurt Nigeria with reduced air connectivity are proving true with the withdrawal of Emirates from the market. Airlines cannot be expected to fly if they cannot realize the revenue from ticket sales.”

“Loss of air connectivity harms the local economy, hurts investor confidence, impacts jobs and peoples livelihoods. It’s time for the Government of Nigeria to prioritize the release of airline funds before more damage is done.”

Alawadhi said this was the eventuality that IATA had been warning Nigeria’s government about and was an eventuality IATA and airlines desperately wanted to avert.”

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UK’s Truss defends economic plan that sent pound tumbling

UK’s Truss defends economic plan that sent pound tumbling

British Prime Minister Liz Truss on Thursday defended her economic plan and shrugged off the negative reaction from financial markets, saying she’s willing to make “difficult decisions” to get the economy growing.

In her first public comments since the government’s announcement of billions in uncosted tax cuts roiled markets and drove the pound to record lows, Truss said Britain was facing “very, very difficult economic times.” But she said the problems were global and spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

She spoke after the Bank of England took emergency action Wednesday to stabilize U.K. financial markets and head off a crisis in the broader economy after the government spooked investors with a program of unfunded tax cuts, sending the pound tumbling and the cost of government debt soaring.

Truss told BBC local radio that “we had to take urgent action to get our economy growing, get Britain moving and also deal with inflation.”

“Of course lots of measures we have announced won’t happen overnight. We won’t see growth come through overnight,” she said. “What is important is that we are putting this country on a better trajectory for the long term.”

In a series of interviews, Truss said her government’s decision to cap energy bills for households and businesses would help tame inflation and help millions of people facing a cost of living crisis.

But it was not that decision that alarmed the markets. It was the government’s announcement on Friday of an economic stimulus program that included 45 billion pounds ($48 billion) of tax cuts and no spending reductions — without an independent economic assessment of the cost and impact.

The Bank of England warned that crumbling confidence in the economy posed a “material risk to U.K. financial stability,” and said it would buy long-term government bonds over the next two weeks to combat a recent slide in British financial assets.

The bank’s former governor, Mark Carney said that the government and the central bank appeared to be pulling in different directions.

“Unfortunately having a partial budget, in these circumstances — tough global economy, tough financial market position, working at cross-purposes with the Bank — has led to quite dramatic moves in financial markets,” he told the BBC.

The pound traded at around $1.08 on Thursday, above its record low of $1.0373 on Monday. It has lost some 4% of its value since Friday.

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Stimulus Packages Provided During Pandemic Triggered Inflation- CBN

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has attributed the rising inflationary rates to the stimulus packages provided to citizens during and after the pandemic.

It added that although this increased spending, it also created global supply challenges.

CBN’s director, Monetary Policy Department, Hassan Mahmoud, said this on Wednesday at a post-MPC briefing tagged: “Unveiling Facts behind the Figures’’.

The Monetary Policy Committee had on Tuesday, unanimously voted to increase interest rate to 15.5 per cent.

“A lot of households and small businesses were injected with stimuluses; the U.S did two trillion dollars, Nigeria did about five trillion Naira, these increased the ability of people to spend.

“But the supply side could not meet up with the demand because that volume of injection was far more than the regular intake for those economies, this made prices go up,’’ he said.

Mahmoud also blamed the Russian-Ukraine war, as well as the resurgence of COVID-19 in China for the rise in global inflationary trend.

“That region accounts for more than 50 per cent of global commodity supply and 38 per cent of global oil and gas supply. The war resulted in some shortages which made prices go up.

“Then the COVID-19 lockdown in China. The country is the largest importer of commodities across the globe,’’ he added.

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China’s yuan slides to 14-year low against US dollar

China’s yuan slides to 14-year low against US dollar

China’s yuan fell to a 14-year low against the dollar Wednesday despite US central bank efforts to stem the slide after U.S. interest rate hikes prompted traders to convert money into dollars in search of higher returns.

A weaker yuan helps Chinese exporters by making their goods cheaper abroad, but it encourages capital to flow out of the economy. That raises costs for Chinese borrowers and sets back the ruling Communist Party’s efforts to boost weak economic growth.

The yuan fell to 7.2301 to the dollar, its lowest level since January 2008. One yuan was worth about 13.8 cents, down 15% from its March high.

The yuan has exceeded expectations it might fall to 7 to the dollar after the Federal Reserve started aggressive rate hikes to cool inflation that is at a four-decade high. The Fed has raised rates five times this year and says more increases are likely.

By contrast, the People’s Bank of China has cut interest rates to boost growth that fell to 2.2% over a year earlier in the first six months of 2022 — less than half the official 5.5% target.

The yuan is allowed to fluctuate up or down 2% from its starting price each day in tightly controlled trading. That prevents big daily swings, but down days can add up to a big change over time.

To shore up the exchange rate, Beijing cut the amount of foreign currency deposits Chinese banks are required to hold as reserves to 6% from 8% as of Sept. 15. That increases the amount of dollars and other foreign currency available to buy yuan, which should push up the exchange rate.

Still, that reserve cut is unlikely to stop a slide that is driven by “a strong U.S. dollar and the expectation of more Federal Reserve hikes,” said Iris Pang of ING in a report.

“Less aggressive rate hike talk” might help the yuan rally, but it might weaken further “if the Fed maintains its very hawkish tone” into next year, Pang wrote.

Chinese officials have previously promised to avoid “competitive devaluation” to gain an advantage in trade.

The yuan sank in 2019 during trade tension with then-President Donald Trump. That prompted suggestions Beijing was trying to reduce the impact of U.S. tariff hikes, but there was no official confirmation. The currency later strengthened.

Other governments also are struggling to manage capital flows under pressure from Fed rate hikes. On Friday, Vietnam’s central bank raised a key interest rate in what economists said appeared to be an effort to stop an outflow of money in search of higher returns.

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