African countries are lagging behind in their vaccination programme as only 20 million or 1.5 percent of the population have been fully vaccinated compared with 42 percent of people in the developed countries, according to the head of global trade watchdog.
According to the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, across Asia, Africa, and Latin America, where vaccination rates are low, COVID-19 deaths are reaching new highs.
Okonjo-Iweala, who spoke at a High-Level Dialogue on “Expanding COVID-19 vaccine manufacture to promote equitable access,” denounced the unequal access to Covid-19 vaccine as unacceptable, “for moral, practical, and economic reasons.”
She said, “Unequal access to vaccines is a major reason for the global economy’s K-shaped recovery, in which advanced economies and a few others are surging ahead, while the rest lag behind amid rising poverty, hunger and unemployment.”
The WTO chief said that 1.1 billion doses were administered worldwide in June, 45 percent more than in May, and more than double the total for April.
However, she regretted that of those 1.1 billion doses in June, only 1.4 percent went to Africans, who account for 17 percent of the global population.
“Only 0.24 percent went to people in low-income countries. And both shares declined even further in the first half of July.
“In developed countries, 94 doses have been administered for every 100 residents. In Africa, the figure is 4.5. In low-income countries, it’s 1.6,” Okonjo-Iweala said.
The WTO chief said production of covid-19 vaccines could reach 11 billion does this year, “provided new vaccines, such as Novavax and several others, secure regulatory approval.
“If production does reach 11 billion, it could help take care of global demand – in the absence of booster shot requirements.”
At the High-Level Dialogue on “Expanding COVID-19 vaccine manufacture to promote equitable access,” participants include senior policymakers, heads of multilateral agencies, vaccine manufacturers, development finance institutions, global health initiatives and public health activists.
The event, which was held under the Chatham House Rule, aimed to identify obstacles and propose solutions for increasing vaccine production and closing the wide gap in vaccination rates between rich and poor countries.
Participants described current and projected production volumes as well as plans for new investments in production capacity. They shared experiences about specific supply chain bottlenecks they were encountering, from export restrictions and raw material shortages to onerous regulatory processes, and exchanged ideas on how these might be addressed.
They discussed issues around the transfer of know-how and technology as well as factors influencing their decisions on licensing intellectual property.
While there was broad agreement on the importance of keeping supply chains open and predictable, different perspectives were expressed on the proposed waiver of the WTO’s Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement provisions pertaining to vaccines and other products needed to combat COVID-19.
The discussions also touched upon a wide range of issues where greater international cooperation would be beneficial. For instance, multiple participants noted that uncoordinated national recognition of WHO-approved vaccines could leave many vaccinated people unable to travel to places where their vaccines are not recognised. In this regard, they urged countries to accept all WHO-approved vaccines.
Nigeria Records Trade Deficit of 8.9 Trillion in Nine Months
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) released a report that showed that Nigeria recorded a trade deficit of 8.9 Trillion Naira between January and September 2021.
A trade deficit occurs when a country’s imports exceed its exports over a period. Within the period, foreign trade was 35.09 Trillion Naira which comprised imports of 22 Trillion Naira and exports of 13.1 Trillion which led to an 8.9 Trillion trade deficit.
A breakdown of the data by quarters shows that trade stood at 9.76 Trillion Naira in the first quarter, which represented imports of 6.85 Trillion Naira and exports of 2.91 Trillion Naira, this resulted in a trade deficit of 3.94 Trillion during the period.
The data went on to show that the majority of the goods imported in the first quarter were from China (valued at 2 Trillion), the Netherlands (valued at 726.09 Billion) the United States (valued at 608.12 Billion), India (valued at 589.1 Billion), and Belgium (valued at 238.5 Billion) while the majority of exports were to India (valued at 488.1 Billion), Spain (valued at 287.2 Billion), China (190.1 Billion), the Netherlands (160.0 Billion) and France (133 Billion).
In the third quarter, Crude oil dominated exports with 78.47% of exports, this was followed by natural gas with 9.5%. Imports were mainly motor spirit with 12.91% of imports, Durum wheat with 3.87%, gas oil with 2.77%, and used vehicles with 2.27%.
A renowned economist, Pat Utomi said the country’s huge appetite for imports was because of insufficient domestic production which is driven by worsening insecurity and stringent government regulations. He went on to say that although there were interventions introduced by the Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria to reduce imports and increase exports, the initiatives are fraught with inconsistencies and corrupt practices that prevent any real impact.
He went on to say that it was scandalous that Nigeria’s top imports were food products and motor spirits as those are products the country should be exporting because Nigeria is a food-producing nation and has oil in abundance.
World Bank Calls on Nigeria to Impose Special Taxes on Alcohol and Tobacco
The World Bank Group has made a call to the Federal Government of Nigeria, urging the government to impose special taxes on alcohol, cigarettes and beverages that are highly sweetened in order to improve primary healthcare conditions in the country.
Shubham Chaudhuri, who is the Country Director for Nigeria in the World Bank Group, said that an improvement in healthcare in Nigeria will come by taxing the things that are “killing us.” He said that the economic rationale for the action is quite strong if lives are to be saved and a healthier Nigeria achieved.
Chaudhuri made the call on Friday, at a special National Council on Health meeting which was organized by the Federal Ministry of Health in Abuja. Chaudhuri stated that placing special taxes on tobacco, sweetened beverages and alcohol would reduce the health risks which come with their consumption and expand the fiscal space for universal health coverage after COVID 19.
The country director also said that investing in stronger health systems for all would make significant contributions to the fight against inequality and the rising poverty situation in the country. He went on to add that increasing health tax would provide an extra advantage of reducing healthcare cost in the future, by hindering the growth of the diseases which are caused by tobacco, alcohol and sugar-sweetened beverages.
The representative of the WHO in Nigeria, Dr Walter Mulombo said that he could confirm the large health needs of Nigerians, as well as the efforts being made to meet those needs. He said this was based on the fact that he had been to over half of Nigeria’s states in less than two years of being in the country.
Mulombo then noted that although the coronavirus exposed weaknesses in the global economy (not excluding health), it could be considered as a unique opportunity for a thorough examination of existing resources and mechanisms to prepare for a more resilient future.
Nigeria’s VAT Revenue Falls to N500 Billion in Q3 2021, Manufacturing Sector in the Lead
In the third quarter of 2021, Nigeria generated a total sum of N500.49 billion as value-added tax which represents a 2.3% decline when compared to the N512.25 billion recorded in the second quarter of the year.
This is as seen in the VAT report which was recently released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The report revealed that the manufacturing sector was in the lead as it remitted a total of N91.2 billion, representing about 30% of the total local non-import value added taxes in that period.
In spite of the quarter-on-quarter decline of VAT collections in the reviewed period, it grew by a further 17.8% when compared to N424.7 billion generated in the same period of the previous year. The report also shows that an amount of N1.5 trillion has been generated from value added taxes from January 2021 to September 2021.
That is 40.2% higher than the N1.08 trillion recorded in the same period of 2020, and 72.3% higher than what was recorded in the same period of 2019.
To break it down, the Value Added Tax collected in the first, second and third quarter of 2021 was recorded at N496.39 billion, N512.25 billion and N500.49 billion respectively. It is higher than the corresponding figures of 2020, which sat at N324.58 billion, N327.20 billion and N424.71 billion for the first, second and third quarters respectively.
In the third quarter of 2021, the Manufacturing activity accounted for the largest share of total revenue collected across sectors, with a huge 30.87% (N91.2 billion) coming from that sector. The Information & Communication sector came in second with 20.05% (N53.9 billion) contributed, while the Mining & Quarrying sector came in third with 9.62% (N28.4 billion).
Nigeria has continued to ramp up its efforts to increase revenue from non-oil sectors by increasing its tax collection rates, which has recorded largely significant growth since the federal government increased the VAT rate from 5% to 7.5% in the 2019 Finance Act, which was signed and made effective in 2020.
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