European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso defended spending cuts across Europe at talks with trade union leaders recently saying austerity was needed to restore investors’ confidence and economic growth.
“I underlined the need of fiscal consolidation and structural reforms,” Barroso, the head of the European Union executive, told a news conference after talks with leaders of European trade unions and employers’ groups.
“Only if we are serious about getting our house in order, we will be able to establish confidence in our economy and growth,’’ he added.
Many EU governments have announced budget cuts to try to restore confidence in their economies since Greece’s debt crisis threatened to spread to other countries that use the euro, hitting the currency and financial markets.
But the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) said trimming public expenditure would harm recovery from the worst economic crisis in decades, especially if it is done in economically stronger countries.
“We made this call for a high-level meeting with the EU out of despair and alarm at the prospects of growth in Europe as all countries, not just those in distress, move to cut their budgets,” ETUC chief John Monks told the news conference.
“The fact that all of them are doing it at the same time is our biggest worry,’’ he said.
The ETUC announced plans on Wednesday to hold a European Day of Action on September 29, including a rally in Brussels, to protest against the spending cuts.
Monks told Reuters that Germany should boost spending, for example by allowing wages to grow, to generate extra demand in the 16-nation euro zone.
He said that unions, which have so far reacted relatively calmly to austerity programmes, would press the governments to ensure the poorest in society are not burdened too much.
“We will keep on the pressure in the months ahead, we don’t want a bleak mid-winter for the unemployed,” he said.
FG To Revive 46 Abandoned Housing Projects Across Nig
The Federal Government, through the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria(FMBN), has initiated a rehabilitation process to revive about 46 abandoned housing projects nationwide.
The bank said this would be achieved through a partnership with Shelter Afrique Development Bank, a Pan-African finance institution that exclusively supports the development of the housing and real estate sector in Africa.
The FMBN Managing Director, Shehu Usman Osidi, stated this while hosting the management of Shelter Afrique Development Bank recently in Abuja, noting that the bank had made reviving the housing estates a priority.
According to him, the intensified collaboration will help provide construction and mortgage financing to developers in Nigeria.
He said, “Nigeria has over 46 abandoned projects in the 36 states and the FMBN is determined to revive them.
“Our findings show that banks have entered into a housing financing agreement with states where the state governments are expected to provide infrastructure for these estates, but unfortunately many states reneged and the projects were abandoned.
“We have explored the product offerings of Shelter Afrique Development Bank and found out that they offer infrastructure financing, so we want to bring them on board to offer this financing so we can finish up the projects and hand them over to many Nigerians who need shelter.”
Osidi further noted that Nigeria, the second largest shareholder in the bank with about 15 per cent holding, will explore areas of funding to achieve its target of delivering 100,000 housing units to Nigerians this year.
He mentioned that the FMBN is currently reviewing previously abandoned memoranda of understanding that were signed with the organisation. This review is aimed at exploring the benefits that Nigerians could gain from this renewed partnership.
Also speaking, the CEO of Shelter Afrique, Thierno-Habib Hann, said the organisation was in Nigeria to promote its development financing agenda and identify Nigeria as a destination for investments with over $25bn in Diaspora remittances each year.
He said, “We are ready to collaborate with FMBN and other institutions across Nigeria to address the housing gap. The challenges are there and the opportunities are also there. As a development finance institution, we are very well positioned to collaborate with the government of Nigeria and in this trip, we met all the leadership including the vice president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria who is fully committed to driving the growth of the sector and invest more in the sector knowing that housing creates jobs.”
Meanwhile, the bank has said it collected about N100billion in remittances through the National Housing Fund (NHF) in 2023.
The NHF scheme was established by the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria to facilitate the continuous flow of low-cost funds for long-term investment in housing, through 2.5 per cent monthly deductions from employees earning a basic salary.
Master Bakers Strike; Factional Group Pulls Out
A factional group, the Supreme Bakers and Confectioners Association of Nigeria(SBCAN), has opted out from the announced strike of the Association of Master Bakers and Caterers of Nigeria (AMBCON).
AMBCON had on February 14th announced it’s proposed strike which commenced yesterday February 27th due to Federal Government’s failure to honour agreement reached with the association in 2020.
The association also called for temporary suspension of all forms of taxation on the bakery industry at the Federal, State and Local Government levels.
However, in a statement on Monday, some bakers under the umbrella of Supreme Bakers and Confectioners Association of Nigeria said embarking on strike at a time Nigerians are going through a lot is uncalled for and could exacerbate the situation.
Acting National President of the association, Edmund Egbuji, in a statement on Monday, urged all members of the group not to participate in the strike.
”The Board of Trustee (BOT) chairman and the entire members of the board in conjunction with the national exco of Supreme Bakers and Confectioners Association of Nigeria wish to bring to the notice of the general public that Supreme Bakers Association will not embark on a nationwide withdrawal of services (strike) proposed by some bakers association in the country.
“Supreme bakers deem it as unpatriotic at this time of food insecurity and scarcity in the country. Going on strike will never be an option rather the government through its relevant ministries should call for a roundtable discussion to cushion the effects of food scarcity plight.
“All members of the supreme bakers are hereby directed to go about the business of feeding the nation as any contrary action will add to the pains of the overstretched citizens”, the statement posited.
Price Hike: BCPG Fears Increased Building Collapse
The Building Collapse Prevention Guild(BCPG) has expressed concern that the continuous rise in prices in building materials may lead to an increase in the use of substandard goods, exacerbating building collapse in the country.
National President of BCPG, Sulaiman Yusuf, stated this during the BCPG sensitisation walks, with the theme “Walking towards Zero Building Collapses,” held in Lagos .
He said, “The expected rise in the cost of building materials such as cement, fittings, and even wages for artisans and professionals in the built environment would eventually have a ripple effect that would see a further proliferation of substandard goods as more builders seek to cut cost by all means and an increase in the patronage of quacks and untrained artisans.
“The effects of these emerging menaces may not be felt immediately, but in three to four years, we may begin to see even more building collapses.
“This sensitisation walk is, therefore, an opportunity to bring this emerging challenge to our attention and is also a call to action.
“The Ministry of Physical Planning and the Office of Urban Development have strong roles to play. They must double their efforts in ensuring that building standards are kept by all builders and must begin to fund research or operationalise the results of previous research on local building materials.”
According to Yusuf, it has become necessary to look inward to reduce the effects of a depreciating naira.
“The Standard Organisation of Nigeria also must take extra care in ensuring that only quality building materials are in the market. We must have a hard line on this,” he advised.
Yusuf emphasised that the plummeting value of the naira, reaching nearly N1,500 against the dollar within six-month would result in a continuous escalation of building material prices.
He stated, “The government must train even more artisans and professionals in the built environment. It is my strong opinion that each local government area must have at least one training school where youths can get trained and become skilled in different areas of the built industry.
“Also, special scholarships should be provided for students offering courses in the built environment to encourage more of them to participate effectively. The youth must be encouraged to know that they do not need to ‘japa’ or turn to a life of crime to become successful in life.
“Regulatory fees should also be reviewed, as the government is advised to see the Ministry of Physical Planning and the Office of Urban Development as agencies for regulation and not revenue generation.”
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