David Cameron yesterday began to outline his new Europe policy following a decision from the Czech constitutional court that is likely to lead to the Lisbon treaty being implemented throughout the European Union within days.
The Conservative leader said he was “very disappointed” by the Czech court decision.
He also implied that, if the treaty does come into force, the Tories will drop their proposal to put it to a referendum. He said he would announce details of his new policy “probably later this week”.
All EU countries apart from the Czech Republic have already ratified the Lisbon treaty and the only person stopping it coming into force has been the Eurosceptic Czech president, Václav Klaus, who said he would not sign while the treaty was still being challenged in the Prague courts.
But this morning the Czech constitutional court dismissed objections lodged by a group of Czech senators who claimed the treaty launches a European superstate and is incompatible with the Czech constitution.
Klaus did not issue an immediate response, but he has previously said that he would not continue to oppose the treaty if it won the approval of the constitutional court and he is now expected to sign the treaty shortly.
In an interview on LBC yesterday , Cameron said he was “disappointed” by the Czech court’s decision.
“I hope, of course, [Klaus] doesn’t sign the treaty but I suspect time is running out,” the Conservative leader said.
Tory Eurosceptics have been alarmed at reports that the party may sidestep its pledge to hold a referendum if the Czech Republic agrees to ratify Lisbon. But Cameron told LBC that he would be entitled to drop his referendum pledge after ratification because the treaty would cease to exist and instead be part of European law.
“I believe we should have a referendum, and we’ve campaigned for it, we’ve fought for it, we’ve put it up front and centre at election campaign after election campaign, we’ve challenged the prime minister about his broken promise in the Commons, we’ve tried to persuade other European countries not to sign the treaty, because we think the British people should be allowed a referendum,” Cameron said.
“But if the treaty is signed, if it is implemented, if it is put in place by all 27 countries, then clearly the situation will have changed and we’ll have to address that changed situation. It won’t be a treaty any more; it will be part of European law.”
Cameron added: “If this treaty becomes law, it becomes law along with all the other treaties that have been passed into European law and we’ll have to explain what a Conservative government would do to try and make sure that Britain had her rights protected and defended properly.”
Cameron said that he would announce his next step “later this week”, although the influential Tory website ConservativeHome said that Cameron ought to respond yesterday to prevent a backlash from Eurosceptics gaining momentum.
There have been reports that Cameron would promise that a Conservative government would change the law to ensure that any new EU treaty needed to be approved by a referendum.
Gordon Brown said today that he hoped that the Lisbon treaty would be ratified by the Czechs “very soon” in the light of yesterday ’s court decision.
Brown also said that he hoped ratification would allow the EU to stop arguing about constitutional issues and to instead focus on issues such as employment, growth and security.
“I hope that we can set aside years of constitutional and institutional debate and years of having to deal with institutional issues and that we can move forward and deal with the main issues that the European Union must now face,” Brown said.
The treaty will streamline EU decision-making procedures and create the post of EU president, which Brown wants to go to Tony Blair.
Yesterday Chris Bryant, the Europe minister, told BBC News that Cameron would be “fibbing” if he promised to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the EU because there was no support from other EU countries for a move of this kind.
“One cast-iron guarantee has already rusted,” said Bryant, referring to Cameron’s promise to hold a referendum. “Any other guarantee that he issues this week won’t be worth the paper it’s written on.”
Nigerians Spend N2.6trn On Data, Airtime In Nine Months
MTN Nigeria and Airtel Africa have revealed that the amount spent on airtime and data by Nigerian telecom subscribers rose to at least N2.59 trillion in the first nine months of 2023.
According to the financial statements of the two telecommunication companies, this amounts to a 32.57 per cent increase from the N1.95 trillion both telcos recorded from both income sources in the corresponding period of 2022.
The increase in voice and data venue was partially driven by rising data subscriptions and the devaluation of the naira on Airtel’s part.
In the first nine months of 2022, Airtel made $1.41bn from airtime and data. When converted at the exchange rate of N461/$ which was obtained at the time, it amounted to N647.71billion.
In the same period of 2023, the company’s income from these two revenue sources amounted to $1.29 billion.
When converted at the exchange rate of N777/$ at the time, it amounted to N1.003 trillion.
On MTN’s part, increasing data revenues continue to fuel the company’s overall revenue growth. Data revenues grew by 36.36 per cent year-on-year, while voice revenues only grew by 10.64 per cent, indicating a rise in the usage of the Internet in the country.
Commenting on this growth, MTN said, “Data revenue grew by 36.4 per cent on increased usage and data conversion in new and existing base”.
The firm stated that data usage on its network grew by 29.1 per cent in the period under review.
It noted that “Data usage (GB per user) grew by 29.1 per cent to 8.6GB, and the number of smartphones on our network increased by 7.6 per cent, bringing smartphone penetration to 53.4 per cent, up 1.4pp YoY.
“Consequently, we recorded a 46.3 per cent growth in data traffic, with the 4G network accounting for 83.7 per cent of the total traffic (up 5.2pp YoY)”.
On its part, Airtel recorded an increase in data usage per customer to 5.9 GB per month. The firm highlighted, “Data revenue grew by 29.3 per cent in constant currency, driven by data customer base growth of 17.4 per cent and data ARPU growth of 12.3 per cent.
“Data usage per customer increased by 23.8 per cent to 5.9 GB per month (from 4.8 GB in the prior period). Our continued 4G network rollout has resulted in nearly 100 per cent of all our sites delivering 4G services”, it stated.
Increased Internet usage because of a rise in video streaming pushed the amount telecom consumers spent on telecom services to N3.86 trillion in 2022.
LCCI Faults FG’s $1trn GDP Projections
The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has said the macro-economic projections in the Federal Government’s Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) are not sufficient to achieve the $1 trillion economy target it set to achieve by 2029.
Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Yemi Cardoso, had last weekend restated the commitment of the government to realising the GDP target.
Reviewing Cardoso’s statement, the Director General, LCCI, Dr Chinyere Almona, explained that the basis for government’s projection contains some inconsistencies that will make it unachievable.
She said, “LCCI is aware of the enormous challenges and the uphill task before the CBN in ensuring macro-economic stability and restoring investors’ confidence.
“However, we note the inconsistencies between the Federal Government’s vision of achieving a $1 trillion economy in the next six years and the MTEF.
“The macro-economic projections in the MTEF state that the economy will grow by 3.76 percent 4.22 percent, and 4.78 percent in 2024, 2025, and 2026, respectively. We note that the projected growths are sub-optimal to achieve a $1trillion GDP by 2029, which implies an average growth of 21 percent over the next six years”.
Almona commended the CBN’s plan to review the minimum capital base of banks, but cautioned the apex bank to strengthen its banking supervision to avoid “too big to fail” banks.
She, however, said, “The Chamber appreciates the intellectual humility of the Governor in admitting the errors or mistakes of the past, particularly in the areas of corporate governance failures, diminished institutional autonomy of CBN, deviation from the core mandate of the bank, and unorthodox use of monetary tools and foray into fiscal activities under the cover of development finance activities.
“As we advance, we challenge the current CBN team to ensure professionalism and integrity and rebuild the trust of the general public.
“On recapitalization of banks, we commend the plan of CBN to review the minimum capital base of banks due to consistent devaluation of the Naira, which has eroded the capital base of banks, attracted significant investment into banks, as well as increased the capacity of banks to provide the required support for the economy.
“However, we caution the CBN to strengthen its banking supervision to avoid “too big to fail” banks.
“Given the sensitivity of monetary policy and price stability, we urge the CBN to ensure transparency and synergy between monetary and fiscal authorities and effectively communicate significant changes in policy direction”.
By: Corlins Walter
Firm Urges FG To Attract Foreign Investment
Multinational professional services firm, EY has advised the Federal Government to improve on its investment attractiveness as a way of building on previous year’s fortunes.
Senior Partner and Head of Markets, EY West Africa, Ashish Bakhshi, while sharing insights on a newly released report on Foreign Direct Investments for 2022, said Nigeria needed to improve on FDIs to achieve the ambitious targets it had set for itself to reduce poverty and build a sizeable middle class by 2030.
“Africa’s leaders will need to adopt pragmatism as they respond to a new geopolitical world order so that its member states can optimize the full spectrum of inbound investment opportunities, which will be essential in meeting Africa’s aspirations for a more equitable, wealthier and urbanised middle-class society”, the report read in part.
It stated further that “Last year saw Africa’s return as a top investment destination hub for global investors. The continent had struggled to attract investment since the onset of COVID-19 and took longer than other regions to recover, as a result of its delayed vaccine rollout and therefore its ability to reopen its 54 national economies.
“To this, its growth lagged pre-pandemic levels for longer than it did in mature markets, setting back the ambitious targets it had set for itself to reduce poverty and build a sizeable middle class by 2030.
“The new report, released by EY, a global multinational professional services firm, uncovered that FDI attracted more than 730 projects across the continent in 2022, injecting $194 billion in capital and creating 154,000 jobs.
“Significantly, Egypt saw a record of $ 107 billion in capital for its 149 FDI projects. In East Africa, Kenya dominated the FDI landscape while Nigeria was the leading country in West Africa.
“The countries came in third and fourth respectively for the largest FDI regions on the continent”.
The EY’s 13th Africa Attractiveness report tagged “A Pivot to Growth”, provides insights into the continent FDI, exposing that the 2022 calendar year saw a strong FDI rebound, led by Renewables inflows, with the West being the largest investor, while the North and Southern hubs of Africa were key beneficiaries.
A notable highlight of the report shows that CleanTech became the largest FDI recipient sector in 2022, leading Africa’s FDI for the first time.