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US States Budgets Get Cash Relief

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Struggling states and towns got a dose of badly needed money this summer from a Cash for Clunkers program that poured hundreds of millions of dollars of tax revenue into their budgets.
Now, like the auto industry, recession-ravaged government are seeing revenue fall off as car buyers take a breather from the frenzied sales of July and August. That means less money for schools, roads, public safety and other projects that get much of their funding from states tax collections.
And while officials welcomed the shot in the arm, the extra clunkers money won’t come close to filling the gaping holes in their budgets or do much to solve the worst revenue downturn in decades.
“It is chump change,” said David Zin, an economist with the Michigan state senate’s fiscal agency.
State and city officials say their budget problems are too severe for one government programme to fix.
“Fifty-thousand is not to be sneezed at,” Dean Rich, finance director of O’Fallon, III, said of the city expected tax gain from its 16 car dealerships. But it’s not enough to prevent a job freeze and cuts to capital project for the town of 29,000 people.
“It’s not the windfall that is going to fix the $1 million shortage we have this year” he said.
Like most governments, O’Fallon suffered during the recession as people facing job losses, reduced pay, lost homes and general unease over the ecoomy snapped their wallets shut. That means big drops in sales tax, which makes up around half of many state budgets. Sales of cars and trucks, big-ticket items with high price tags, are a big component of sales tax collections.
Cash for Clunkers held some promise-customers bought nearly 700,000 new vehicles during late July and August, taking advantage of rebates of up to $4,500 on new cars in return for trading in their older vehicles. The programme ended up tripling the size of tis orginal $1 billion price tag due to its broad popularity. For government budget offices, that represented some rare good news.
The auto forecaster Edmunds.com estimated that the average clunker sales price was $26,321, meaning roughly $18 billion worth of new vehicles were sold under the programme. Multiplied by the average combined state and local sales tax of 7.5 per cent, the total tax bill amounts to a loose estimate of $1.36 billion.
But here’s some perspective – the budget shortfall of Michigan alone, the symbolic heartland of the U.S. auto industry, amounts to $2.8 billion. And it pales in comparison to the $240 billion that states collected in total general sales taxes in 2008.
“That’s more than a drop in the bucket…but not much more for state budgets,” said Robert Ward, director of fiscal studies for the Rockefeller Institute of Government in New York.
The taxes brought in by clunkers offered a summer shot of adrenaline for most states. The funds – often earmarked for school aid, highway repairs and law enforcement – came at a time when they were struggling with big shortfalls.
Kentucky reported that clunkers taxes propped up its Road Fund, which supports the state’s network of roadways. Motor vehicle usage taxes grew 11.4 per cent to $36 million in August, helping keep the fund flat for the month. The state estimates it can now afford to see receipts fall more than 4 per cent for the rest of fiscal year and still meet its budget forecasts.
Legislative estimates in Michigan show the state may have taken in $39 million from Cash for Clunkers. About a third of that money is devoted to education.
Massachusetts reported that motor vehicle sales tax revenue rose nearly 36 per cent in August from a year earlier, higher than the state’s monthly target. That gain, combined with a rise in the overall sales tax that month, pushed vehicle tax collections above the monthly goal.
The extra money may be a help, but state budget officials say it’s minor compared with their huge problems.
Kentucky officials have warned that until unemployment improves – about 11 per cent of states residents are now jobless – tax revenues will remain in the doldrums.
In Michigan, where the states sales tax is the major source of aid for schools, lawmakrers proposed cutting $218 per pupil from the aid the state government gives to local school districts. That’s despite the clunkers money and extra vehicle sales tax revnue from laid off auto workers who got vouchers for new cars as part of their severance. Sales tax collections are still down 9 per cent.
Auto sales nationally fell 41 per cent from August to September, a drop caused largely by people who would have normally waited a few months to buy a new vehicle rushing in to take advantage of the federal programme’s big rebates.
That hangover showed up in Massachusetts sales tax collections last month, which were 5 per cent below forecasts. That worries Robert Bliss, a spokesman for the state revenue department.
“Has the pool been drained as a result of this programme for the next couple of months? That is the question,” he said.

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Inflation Rate Falls To 16.63%  – NBS

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The rate of inflation in Nigeria has declined for the sixth consecutive month to 16.63 per cent in September, which is its lowest level since January this year, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has said.
The Bureau, in its Consumer Price Index released on Friday, said the inflation rate fell by 0.38 per cent from 17.01 per cent in August.
The drop in headline inflation began in April when it fell to18.12 per cent from 18.17 per cent in March.
According to NBC, the urban inflation rate increased by 17.19 per cent (year-on-year) in September 2021 from 17.59 per cent recorded in August 2021, while the rural inflation rate increased by 16.08 per cent in September 2021 from 16.45 per cent in August 2021.
It said farm produce such as bread, cereals, cocoa, meat, coffee, tea and cocoa drove food inflation, fell to 19.57 per cent in September from 20.30 percent in August.
Other items that led to the rise in the composite food index in September included oils and fats, yam and other tubers, fish, potatoes, milk, cheese and egg.
“On month-on-month basis, the food sub-index increased by 1.26 per cent in September 2021, up by 0.20 per cent points from 1.06 per cent recorded in August 2021”, the NBS stated.
 The Statistician-General of the Federation, Simon Harry, said the fall in the inflation rate signalled an improvement in government performance and more favourable economic conditions.
“The inflation rate in Nigeria has maintained a consecutive decline in year-on-year for a period of six consecutive months, starting from March 2021 to August 2021”, he said.

By: Corlins Walter

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5G Now At 97% Completion, As NCC Moves To Auction Spectrum

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The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said that the plan for deployment of Fifth Generation technology in the country has gotten to 97 per cent. 
Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, disclosed this at the annual African Tech Alliance Forum with the theme ‘Embracing changes and digital transformation in the new normal’.
According to a statement titled ‘NCC update on plans for 5G deployment’ issued  by the NCC’s Deputy Manager, Public Affairs, Kunle Azeez, the commission stated that some spectrum would be auctioned.
“Already, we are set for the auction of some spectrum slots in the 3.5GHz band. The other day, I was at the National Assembly, I informed the Senate that we were 95 per cent ready for 5G.
“Today as we speak, I am delighted to tell you that we are already at 97 per cent completion. 
“The committee set up to auction the spectrum has already developed an information memorandum which is already published for inputs and comments from all industry stakeholders.
“Prior to this, a 5G deployment plan was developed and we have since secured the Federal Government’s approval”, the commission stated.
The commission also explained that because of the Covid-19 pandemic, almost every means of communication became virtual, which led to an increase in network connectivity requirements as a result of unprecedented upsurge in internet traffic.
Danbatta added that even though the network infrastructure in the nation demonstrated some capacity to contain the surge in internet traffic, a lot of work was being done by the commission to boost network capacity, sensitise the public and ensure accessibility to affordable connectivity.
“Emerging technologies such as 5G, which NCC is driving aggressively in Nigeria, Internet of Things; Cloud Computing; Quantum Computing Augmented/Virtual Reality, and similar emerging technologies are playing a critical role in improving remote communication over the internet with great user experience.
“The NCC is committed to promoting this inevitable change and enhancing user experience through effective regulation of the telecoms sector”, he stated.

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Nigeria’s Debt-To-GDP Ratio To Hit 42% By 2026 – IMF

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The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has projected that Nigeria’s Gross Debt-to-Gross Domestic Product ratio will rise from 35.7 per cent in 2021 to 42 per cent by 2026.
The IMF stated this in its October 2021 Fiscal Monitor Report published on its website.
It said the country’s gross debt-to-GDP ratio would increase from 35.7 per cent in 2021 to 36.9 per cent in 2022, 37.7 per cent in 2023, 39.1 per cent in 2024 and 40.6 per cent in 2025.
According to the report, the gross debt includes overdrafts from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and liabilities of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON). 
It added that the general government’s revenue-to-GDP ratio would decrease from 7.2 per cent in 2021 to 6.5 per cent in 2026, while the general government expenditure-to-GDP ratio would decrease from 13.3 per cent in 2021 to 12.6 per cent in 2026.
The global financial institution said that the general government net debt-to-GDP ratio would increase from 35.3 per cent in 2021 to 41.8 per cent in 2026.
“The overdrafts and government deposits at the Central Bank of Nigeria almost cancel each other out, and the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria debt is roughly halved,” it added.
The report said for low-income developing countries like Nigeria, average gross debt in 2021 would likely remain stable at almost 50 per cent in 2020, while debt vulnerabilities “are expected to be high.

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