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ECONOMIC REFORMS NEEDED URGENTLY! Nigerians are getting poorer, says IMF

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Nigerians are getting poorer despite the country’s slow recovery from recession and economic reforms are urgently needed, the International Monetary Fund has said.

The Fund expects the government to “muddle through” in the medium term, and any progress could also be threatened if elections next year consume political energy and resources, it said in a report seen by Reuters on Wednesday.

Since emerging from recession in the second quarter of 2017, Nigerian officials have repeatedly boasted that they have set the economy back on track.

But critics say much of the recovery comes from a return to oil dependence after a rise in global oil prices and a rebound in crude production, more the result of militants in the Niger Delta halting attacks on oil facilities than of economic policy under President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

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The IMF said in the report that the outlook for growth had improved but remained challenging.

“Comprehensive and coherent” economic policies “remain urgent and must not be delayed by approaching elections and recovering oil prices,” it stated in its annual Article IV review of Nigeria’s economy.

“Higher oil prices would support a recovery in 2018 but a ‘muddle-through’ outlook is projected for the medium term under current policies, with fiscal dominance and structural constraints leading to continuing falls in real GDP per capita,” the IMF added.

In the report, it identified risks to growth, including additional delays to implementing policies and reforms ahead of the 2019 elections, security tensions, and oil prices, a fall in which could see capital flows reversed.

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“Further delays in policy action, including because of pre-election pressures, can only make the inevitable adjustment more difficult and costlier,” the report added.

The lender repeated its call for Nigeria to simplify its complex foreign exchange system, a bugbear for the IMF for more than a year, which has left large gaps between official rates and various windows that certain groups can use to get other rates.

“Moving towards a unified exchange rate should be pursued as soon as possible. The IMF staff does not support the exchange measures that have given rise to the exchange restrictions and multiple currency practices,” it stated.

The Fund further singled out the central bank, saying it should discontinue direct interventions in the economy.

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The Central Bank of Nigeria frequently injects hundreds of millions of dollars into the foreign exchange market to keep its own rates stable.

Commercial banks struggling to remain solvent were also called out, but not identified by the IMF, including one that the lender said was already insolvent, adding, “Some of these banks are kept afloat through continuous recourse to the CBN’s lending facilities.”

The IMF said it would not comment on purported leaks. A spokeswoman for the Fund said a statement would be issued after the lender’s board’s meeting to discuss its assessment on Friday.

A spokeswoman for the Federal Ministry of Finance did not immediately respond to a phone call and email requesting comment.

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Pharmacists’ council shuts drug market in Imo

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The Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) has shut a drug market along Douglas Road, Owerri, the Imo state capital for violating the regulations guiding the handling of pharmaceutical products and sale of medicines.

The council also sealed off nineteen pharmacies and 434 Patent and Proprietary Medicines Vendors (PPMV) otherwise known as patent medicine shops in the state.

Addressing a press conference in Owerri Friday, the director of inspection and monitoring of the council, Pharm. Anthonia Aruya, disclosed that nine arrests were made during the enforcement exercise of the council which started in the state since June 29, 2020.

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She said,

“A major observed non-compliance is the fact that despite the federal government’s explicit policy direction and the PCN’s guidance to stakeholders on relocation of markets into regulated centres (Coordinated Wholesale Centres), a new drug market was discovered recently set up in this state. The PCN has sealed that market preparatory for evacuation”.

According to her, the council had visited 557 premises that comprised 68 pharmacies as well as 489 patent medicine shops.

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Aruya disclosed that apart from those that were sealed off, ten pharmacies and one patent medicine shop were issued with compliance directives for poor handling of controlled drugs as well as the sale and dispensing of ethical drugs without the supervision of the pharmacists.

She advised the public to look out for the Pharmacists annual license to practice and the premises certificates which should be conspicuously displayed and the license of the patent medicine shops to avoid patronising quacks.

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She insisted that medicines sold in unregistered outlets cannot be guaranteed to have efficacy, quality and safety as those sold in regulated facilities.

According to her,

“Medicines are to be sold in highly regulated environment. A situation where people wake up in the morning and start selling medicines without recourse to regulations guilding the practice is highly unacceptable to the federal government, particularly when we understand that drugs are poisons and must be used strictly as directed to avoid deleterious effects.”

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World’s ‘first’ gold-plated hotel in Vietnam (photos)

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The world’s first self-proclaimed gold-plated hotel is now open for business in Vietnam, and despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the luxurious structure is now open for business.

The Vietnamese owners insist they have the Midas touch.

The “Dolce Hanoi Golden Lake hotel” cost $200 million to construct with a 24-carat plating across lobbies, an infinity pool and rooms with even cutlery, cups, showerheads and toilet seats receiving the golden treatment.

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Coffee is served in a gold cup and bath time is taken in gilded splendour.

The hotel which sits by Giang Vo Lake in the centre of the Vietnamese capital has 400 rooms and will operate under the American Wyndham Hotels brand.

While expensive for Vietnam, at $250 a night it is not prohibitive for wealthy locals craving a few nights living like Donald Trump, the US President renowned for his love of all things that glitter.

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The hotel wants “ordinary people to the super-rich… to check-in” both physically and on social media, said Nguyen Huu Duong, chairman of Hoa Binh group that owns the hotel. Nguyen Huu Duong, chairman of Hoa Binh group that owns the hotel said;

“We want the ordinary people to the super rich… to check-in. Our group has a factory that can do gold-plated stuff, so the cost for our equipment and furniture here is quite cheap.”

Phillip Park, a South Korean guest said;

“When I arrived here… I felt like a king, you know, the Pharaoh… the king of Egypt.”

The relatively modest construction price tag was achieved by sourcing the gold plating locally — significantly reducing costs.

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See photos below;

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EU approves COVID-19 drug Remdesivir

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The European Commission has authorized the use of anti-viral drug remdesivir to treat severe cases of COVID-19.

The announcement was made on Friday, July 3, days after the US effectively stockpiled the world’s entire supply of the antiviral medication. Its approval came after two major US studies showed that remdesivir can reduce the duration of hospital stay for COVID-19 patients.

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EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said in a statement;

“Today’s authorisation of a first medicine to treat COVID-19 is an important step forward in the fight against this virus.

“We are granting this authorisation less than a month after the application was submitted, showing clearly the EU’s determination to respond quickly whenever new treatments become available.”

Remdesivir which is the only anti-coronavirus medication to be given the green light in the EU was originally intended as a treatment for Ebola.

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The green light comes on the recommendation of the European Medicines Agency which gave its conditional authorisation last week for the treatment of patients above 12 years of age who are suffering pneumonia and require extra oxygen.

It said its assessment was based mainly based on data from a study sponsored by the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

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