European stocks close broadly higher after cautious session

?European stocks closed broadly higher on Wednesday with investors digesting Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s hawkish remarks during his testimony before the Senate Banking Committee. Markets also took in their stride the latest batch of economic data from the European region. Citing stubbornly elevated inflation and stronger than expected economic data, Powell told lawmakers the ‘ultimate level of interest rates is likely to be higher than previously anticipated.’ Powell also said the Fed would be prepared to reaccelerate the pace of rate hikes if the totality of incoming data were to indicate that faster tightening is warranted. Additionally, the Fed chief reiterated the central bank will likely need to maintain a restrictive stance of monetary policy for ‘some time’ in order to restore price stability. The pan-European Stoxx 600 edged up 0.08%. Britain’s FTSE 100 gained 0.13%, Germany’s DAX climbed 0.46%, and France’s CAC 40 drifted down 0.2%. Switzerland’s SMI ended 0.35% down. Among other markets in Europe, Austria, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Turkey closed higher. Denmark, Greece, Ireland and Norway ended weak, while Belgium, Finland and Iceland settled flat. In the UK market, Hiscox rallied 5.2%. Rolls-Royce Holdings, Antofagasta, Smith (DS), Glencore, Smurfit Kappa Group, Haleon, Natwest Group, Melrose Industries, Rio Tinto, HSBC Holdings, Taylor Wimpey, Kingfisher and National Grid gained 1 to 2.5%. Admiral Group ended more than 4% down. Land Securities Group, British Land Co., St Jame’s Place, Schrodders, Frasers Group, Segro and GSK lost 1 to 2.5%. In the German market, Continental soared nearly 8%. Infineon Technologies climbed more than 3%. Bayer, Adidas, Porsche, Siemens, Symrise and Volkswagen gained 1 to 2.2%. Sartorius ended lower by about 2%. Merck, Brenntag, Vonovia and Siemens Healthineers also closed weak. In Paris, STMicroElectronics surged more than 3.5%. ArcelorMittal, Bouygues, Danone, AXA, Kering and Vivendi posted moderate gains. Teleperformance dropped more than 5%. Thales ended lower by about 3.6%, while Essilor, Hermes International and Safran lost 1 to 1.7%. In economic releases, eurozone economy stagnated in the fourth quarter, following a downward revision, as positive contributions from the government consumption and foreign trade were offset by contractions in household spending and investment. Gross domestic product remained flat sequentially in the fourth quarter after expanding 0.4% in the preceding period, data from Eurostat showed Wednesday. Germany’s industrial production rebounded in January on strong growth in intermediate goods output, data from Destatis revealed. Industrial production grew by more-than-expected 3.5% on a monthly basis, offsetting the revised 2.4% decline in December. Output was forecast to grow 1.4%.Year-on-year, the decline in industrial output halved to 1.6% from 3.3% in the previous month.

Source: Ghana News Agency

Georgia withdraws proposed ‘foreign?agents’ law after protests

?Lawmakers in Georgia have withdrawn a ‘foreign agents’ bill following days of protests against it, the ruling Georgian Dream party said on Thursday. The surprise announcement comes after the parliament in the South Caucasus republic approved the proposed law called ‘On?Transparency of Foreign Influence’ in a first reading on Tuesday. The proposal, which targets the disclosure of money flows from abroad, sparked two days of mass demonstrations in the capital Tbilisi because critics fear it is a way for the government to crack down on the opposition. ‘We see that the bill has led to disagreements in society,’ Georgian?Dream said. ‘In view of all this, we … have decided to withdraw the bill we support without reservations.’ Protesters and civil rights activists worried that adoption of the law would undermine Georgia’s democracy and dim the country’s chances of joining the European Union, which has criticized the law. The proposed law, similar to legislation in Russia, would have classified non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and media outlets that are partly funded from abroad as ‘foreign agents.’ US?State Department spokesman Ned Price on?Wednesday warned that the ‘Kremlin-inspired’ draft law was ‘incompatible with the people of Georgia’s clear desire for European integration and its democratic development.’ The foreign ministers of the Baltic states Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, who also have a Soviet past, also expressed concern in a joint statement on Wednesday. ‘We call on the Parliament of Georgia to responsibly assess the real interests of the country and refrain from decisions that may undermine aspirations of Georgia’s people to live in a democratic country which is advancing towards the EU and NATO,’ wrote the chief diplomats of the three countries, which are members of both organizations. Georgian authorities used tear gas and water cannon to disperse demonstrators during the protests on Tuesday and Wednesday. Sixty-six people were arrested on?Tuesday alone.

Source: Ghana News Agency

France, EU?diplomats slam Germany over combustion engine blockade

?Germany’s blockade of the EU ban on new internal combustion cars from 2035 onwards has met with criticism in France and angered EU?diplomats. French Minister of Transport Clément Beaune told the LCI radio station in Paris on Wednesday that he had called on his German counterpart, Volker Wissing, to give in. ‘We must keep the ambition to get away from cars with combustion engines by 2035. Otherwise we will be swept away ecologically and industrially. We must make the electric car an affordable, French and European product,’ Beaune stressed. If counter-signals are sent now, it will not be possible to create an electric car accessible to all, Beaune said. Wissing had justified Germany’s refusal to agree to the proposal by the European Commission on how climate-neutral synthetic fuels, also known as e-fuels, could be used in internal combustion engines after 2035. The EU vote on the planned ban on new cars with internal combustion engines from 2035 had to be postponed on Friday because of Germany’s demands. EU?diplomats in Brussels on Wednesday also expressed their anger over the German blockade, criticizing the disunity of the government in Berlin. ‘We think it’s a breach of trust,’ a diplomat told dpa regarding Germany’s refusal to back the planned ban, for which Wissing’s pro-business Free Democrats, a junior partner in the governing coalition of Chancellor Olaf Scholz, are mostly thought to be responsible. Since the negotiations had taken place in the usual manner, objections could have been raised earlier, she added. ‘One would wish that internal disputes within the coalition were settled beforehand.’ In the future, the diplomat said, it would always be questionable ‘what an agreement with Germany is worth at all.’ Another EU diplomat said that he expected such behaviour from the Hungarian government under Viktor Orban – which in the past has famously vetoed several issues – but that Germany had a special responsibility in the EU.

Source: Ghana News Agency

Ghana International Trade Commission refuses waiver on Anti-Dumping Duty on Asadtek Group consignments

The Ghana International Trade Commission (GITC) has refused a request for waiver of 35.77 per cent Anti-Dumping Duty (ADD) imposed on consignments of aluminium coils and circles imported from China by the Asadtek Group of Companies. The GITC concluded that ‘the imported consignments were not brought into Ghana at fair values, hence constituted dumping’. The Global Roofing and Construction Limited (ASADTEK GROUP), headquartered in Tema, had petitioned the Commission on June 30, 2022, to request a waiver of 35.77 per cent Anti-Dumping Duty (ADD) imposed on its consignments. The Petitioner (ASADTEK GROUP) contended that the consignments of aluminium coils and circles did not constitute dumping. The Commission in a statement signed by its Executive Secretary, Mr Frank Agyekum, said it ‘took into consideration the facts contained in the filed Petition and the 29-page supporting documents’. The Commission said it analysed the issues brought before it, by the GITC Act 926, 2016, and the GITC Anti-Dumping Regulations, 2019, L.I.2380. The Ghana International Trade Commission was established by an Act of Parliament in September 2016 to regulate Ghana’s international trade architecture in conformity with the rules and regulations of the World Trade System and to provide for related matters. According to the GITC Act, the objectives of the Commission include ensuring fair competition for persons engaged in domestic production and international trade; overseeing Ghana’s compliance with international trade rules and regulations; protecting the domestic industry or market from the impact of unfair trade practices and ensuring transparency, fairness, efficiency and objectivity in the application of measures affecting international trade and the use of world trade measures. The Commission advises, recommends and provides analytical support to the Minister of Trade and Industry on?proposals for trade-related legislation; preparation of documentation and negotiating position of the Government during international trade negotiations. It further advises Ghana’s compliance with its bilateral and multilateral trade treaties and obligations; tariff levels for specific sectors of the economy and matters affecting trade and industry after monitoring and reviewing the Country’s international trade. For Manufacturers,?the Commission determines complaints before it in areas of Safeguard Measures; Subsidization of Imported Products by foreign Governments; the Dumping of imported products into our domestic market; tariff adjustments and actions which are deemed to affect fair trade. For Importers and Traders,?the Commission settles disputes arising from the classification and valuation of imported products between them and the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority. For Exporters,?the Commission will conduct studies and publish reports on the competitiveness of Ghana’s tariff structure and its impact on the domestic industry, market access opportunities and challenges with exports from Ghana.

Source: Ghana News Agency

France’s payroll employment increases 0.2% in fourth quarter

?France’s payroll employment increased in the fourth quarter reflecting the improvement in the private sector job creation, final data from the statistical office INSEE showed Thursday. Overall payroll employment grew 0.2% or 44,000 in the fourth quarter. However, this was slower than the 0.3% or 84,100 jobs created in the third quarter. Payroll employment has grown for the eighth straight month. The overall increase was mainly due to a 0.2% rise in private payroll employment. The statistical office revised up private payroll employment for the fourth quarter from flat growth estimated on February 8. Still this was nearly half of the increase of 0.4% posted in the third quarter. At the same time, public payroll employment remained stable after a marginal 0.1% fall in the preceding quarter. In the fourth quarter, temporary employment increased by 1.1% after a 1.5% rise in the previous quarter.

Source: Ghana News Agency

Data key for executing strategies in promoting girls’ education in Ghana

Stakeholders in education have identified the unavailability and inaccessibility of data as a challenge in the implementation of strategies and interventions for promoting girls’ education in Ghana. They said the effectiveness of such strategies depended on data and that the inability to assess the interventions were because they were often subsumed or part of larger interventions. The stakeholders said the inaccessibility of data was a bane to the promotion of girls’ education in Ghana and that the phenomenon needed to be tackled with some urgency. A scoping review on strategies for promoting girl’s education in Ghana has also identified that data is hardly disaggregated by gender, geographical location, and school level particularly the primary and secondary levels. Dr Ernestina Tetteh, Projects Manager, STAR-Ghana Foundation (SGF), speaking at a day’s Forum on Girl’s Education in Ghana, confirmed that data on girls’ education was scarce and for those that were available, accessibility was a major challenge. The forum, under the theme: ‘Increasing Inclusive Access to Continuous Quality Education for Girls’, sought to build consensus among stakeholders and renew commitment towards collaborations on strategies to secure girls’ continuous access to quality education. It was organised by STAR-Ghana Foundation and partners under the Gender Rights and Empowerment Programme (G-REP) with funding from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the UK government. Dr Tetteh said: ‘Gender disaggregated data is key to monitoring how policies and strategies should be operationalised but also how such policies are working for both boys and girls and the particular intervention to provide for girls.’ The Project Manager said the lack of accurate data and systematic documentation of learnings and lessons made it difficult to access strategies, calling for renewed collaboration by stakeholders to nip the phenomenon in the bud. Dr Esther Ofei Aboagye, Chairperson, STAR-Ghana Foundation, observed that there was a lot of work to be done in the promotion of girls’ education and that some of the factors affecting girl’s education, including sexual harassment needed to be dealt with. She said collaboration and effective coordination, vertical and horizontal, was important at the community level to inform policy delivery, assuring that Civil Society Organisations were open to such collaboration to ensure ‘a Ghana fit for purpose’. Mr Kofi Asare, Executive Director, Africa Education Watch, said expanding equitable access to education required that the larger issue of infrastructural development in line with the growth of the population and the growing number of schools still operating under trees and dilapidated structures were critically considered. Speaking on the low budgetary allocation for specified interventions that benefit girls’ education in Ghana, he said there was the need for specific action towards financing equitable and inclusive education in Ghana. For instance, until 2020, complementary education was solely donor funded. However, in the 2023 budget, an allocation of GHS2.1 million Ghana Cedis has been made for complimentary education. The Ministry of Education’s Strategic Plan for 2018-2030 commits only one per cent of its Basic Education Budget to supporting the Complementary Basic Education programme. Ms. Eunice R. Agbenyadzi, Head of Programmes, SGF, said there was also a need to strengthen the collective advocacy on budgets for the education sector, particularly those targeted at girls. Ms. Clara Osei-Boateng, a representative from FCDO of the UK Government, said educating girls was the single solution to many of the problem women faced in their adulthood, reiterating that ‘when girls are educated, they are able to secure jobs and become economically empowered, which enables them to take control of their lives.’ She said while Ghana had achieved gender parity in enrolment in basic schools, many girls continued to face challenges, which affected their retention in school.

Source: Ghana News Agency

French Senate votes to up retirement to 64 despite protests, strikes

?The French Senate has approved a gradual increase in the retirement age from 62 to 64 years, despite weeks of protests that have drawn millions into the streets and crippling strikes. The Senate voted in favour of the article raising the age by 201 to 115. President Emmanuel Macron’s overhaul of pensions must still be approved by the lower house of the French parliament, the National Assembly, where lawmakers have shown more resistance. In addition to pushing the retirement age back to 64, Macron also wants to accelerate the increase in the period of payment required for a full pension. His government says the unpopular measures are needed to shore up the scheme for the future. Labour unions denounce the plan and workers at oil refineries, schools, airports, rail systems and other places have walked off their jobs. Protests have been held in cities and towns across France. The current retirement age is 62 years. In practice, however, it can begin years later because those who have not paid in long enough to be entitled to a full pension work longer. At the age of 67 there is a pension without deductions, regardless of how long it has been paid in. The government aims to keep this rule. Under the reforms, the monthly minimum pension would increase to around pound 1,200 ($1,260). The legislation is still bouncing between the chambers. Despite the Senate’s approval, the legislative body is scheduled to keep debating the reforms this week. Senators and lawmakers from the National Assembly will also try to hammer out a compromise plan. The National Assembly has also considered the legislation but has yet to vote on the central article on the higher retirement age. Macron, who does not have a majority in either chamber, could also bypass lawmakers and order the changes be implemented.

Source: Ghana News Agency

UHAS, St Francis College of Education hold symposium

Dr Adwoa Kwagyiriba, Principal of St. Francis College of Education has said the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the phase of education with technology taking centre stage in teaching and learning. She said parents especially fathers needed to formulate policies that would ensure the bright future of their wards while admonishing women to be supportive. She was speaking at a symposium to commemorate the 2023 International Women’s Day, held by the Fred N. Binka School of Public Health, University of Health, and Allied Sciences (UHAS), and the St Francis College of Education. The symposium was on the theme: ‘DigitALL: Innovations and Technology for Gender Equality.’ Dr Kwagyiriba urged the youth to make effective use of technology and integrate the positive aspects of digitisation in their education including research. Panelists spoke on ‘Leveraging Technology to improve women’s access to education and career advancement’ and ‘Impact of mobile money as an example of technology for everyday people’. Dr Joyce Der, Lecturer, Fred N. Binka School of Public Health, UHAS, said women needed support and encouragement to strive in their various fields adding that women must also develop and empower themselves. She noted that technology had also brought creativity in teaching and learning, holding of conferences and meetings locally and internationally. Dr Der admonished the leverage on simple technologies including Google calendars to make work easier and simple. Madam Faustina Dofui Desewu, Tutor, Nursing and Midwifery Training College, Hohoe, noted that although there was a digital mode of teaching and disseminating information, internet accessibility was always a challenge. She noted that it was also important for parents to inculcate the use of technology in their wards at initial stages, ensure their wards knew its importance and most essentially, monitor how they use the technological gadgets. Mrs. Janet Valerie Datsa Agbotse, Hohoe Municipal Director of Education, Chairing the occasion noted that despite all efforts to improve upon the progress and growth of women, the men had also been supportive. Madam Iddrisu Murjanatu, a trader noted that the availability of digital platforms such as mobile money had saved time, cost, and energy in transacting businesses. She noted that her products were normally displayed on her WhatsApp status and could transact business with her customers. Mama Dzitri II, Vice President, of the Hohoe Municipal Council of Queens, noted that the digital platforms had helped women in sharing business ideas as well as enhanced patronage for their goods and services. She however called on telecommunications providers to intensify education on activities of fraudsters to make the platform free and safe to use. Dr Forgive Awo Norvivor, Lecturer, Fred N. Binka School of Public Health, UHAS, noted that digital platforms had helped women in marketing and advertising their goods and services which had improved businesses. She noted that a downside of the digital platforms is not being able to interact with customers to physically advertise products. Dr Norvivor noted that purchase or order of goods were delayed since it had to take someone on the platform where the goods were advertised to order a product.

Source: Ghana News Agency