Gordhan: we can do better

first_imgFinance minister Pravin Gordhan arrives at Parliament in Cape Town, ahead of the 2013 budget speech.(Image: GCIS) MEDIA CONTACTS • Jabulani Sikhakhane  Ministerial spokesperson  Department of Finance  +27 12 315 5944 RELATED ARTICLES • Gordhan: Make SA works marter • Team SA to call for investment • SA’s budget most transparent in world • Budget big on education, jobs • SA business gives budget a thumbs-upFinance minister Pravin Gordhan delivered his annual budget speech on 27 February. The national budget gives details of the government’s plans for borrowing, spending and taxation over the next three years.Reaction to the speech, from political opposition as well as financial experts, has been positive overall. The African Christian Democratic Party described it as “conservative”. The Congress of South African Trade Unions said it had hoped for a bolder strategy.“The budget contained no major surprises,” said Old Mutual’s chief economist Rian le Roux. This is because the National Treasury needs to narrow the government budget deficit while maintaining spending on social services and keeping taxation within sustainable limits, he said.Le Roux also commended the government for announcing a lower spending estimate of R10.4-billion less than the previous figure. This is a clear sign that tighter control on government spending is on the cards.Gordhan announced tax relief of R7-billion for individual taxpayers, and the amount a person needs to earn before becoming eligible for taxation has increased.Tim Harris of the Democratic Alliance expressed pleasure that there wasn’t any increase in personal tax.However, excise duty on goods such as tobacco, spirits and wines has increased, as it does every year. The petrol levy has also increased by 23 cents.He announced a continued priority for infrastructure development, with R827-billion allocated for the next three years. This includes R2-billion for the Square Kilometre Array .Visit the National Treasury’s budget page for more information and downloads on the 2013 budget. The full text of the speech follows:Honourable SpeakerI have the honour to present the fourth budget of President Zuma’s administration.Mr President, you said in the State of the Nation address that “we should put South Africa first. All of us have a patriotic duty and responsibility to build and promote our country.” You further said “The National Development Plan provides a perfect vehicle for united action precisely because it has the support of South Africans across the political and cultural spectrum. Leaders in every avenue should be ready to rise above sectional interests and with great maturity, pull together to take this country forward.”This challenge applies to all sections of our society: business, labour, public representatives, activists and citizens in every part of the country.As we pointed out in the 2012 budget, global economic uncertainty will remain with us for some time.South Africa’s economic outlook is improving, but requires that we actively pursue a different trajectory if we are to address the challenges ahead.Under your leadership Mr President, we have opened new channels of communication and built more cohesion among key stakeholders in South Africa. We have taken many steps to create the conditions for higher levels of confidence in our economy and society. Now we are ready to implement the National Development Plan.South Africans have a rich history of acting together for a better future.Thirty years ago, the United Democratic Front brought together people of goodwill and foresight from all corners of the country. Many points of view, many differences in approach, were marshalled around a single cause – building a united and non-racial society. We did the same for the first democratic elections in 1994 which laid the basis for an enduring democracy.The Reconstruction and Development Programme is the foundation on which we build. It said:“It is this collective heritage of struggle, these common yearnings, which are our greatest strength… At the same time the challenges facing South Africa are enormous. Only a comprehensive approach to harnessing the resources of our country can reverse the crisis created by apartheid. Only an all-round effort to harness the life experience, skills, energies and aspirations of the people can lay the basis for a new South Africa.”The schools, clinics, taps and houses we have built since then are testimony to the truth of these assertions. The freedom and democracy we cherish – and the knowledge that these are permanent, inalienable rights grounded in our basic law – are the foundation on which all South Africans can make a contribution.Looking back on the path we have travelled since 1994, we see the importance of a long-term perspective on development and change. It is people acting together for a common vision that connects the past to the present, and makes a better future possible.The challenge for us, honourable members, is that people are asking if we can sustain our “miracle”. They are asking whether we as a nation have the ability, the will and the wisdom to take another leap forward in reconstructing and developing South Africa. They are asking whether South Africans can still show the world how to overcome intractable problems that face the community of nations. In these trying times, South Africans too ask the question, “can we be a winning nation?”.Of course we can!As Benedict Mongalo, a young man from Johannesburg, writes in his tip: “We all acknowledge that unemployment, poverty and inequality are the greatest challenge facing our country… We will not eradicate this problem overnight… This is like manually moving a mountain and the only way to do it, is to move one rock aside and the next generation, or next government, will do the same until this mountain is moved.”Hope and confidence come from energetic involvement and a willingness to make a direct contribution to change. The imperatives of change are not just challenges to government, they confront all of society. A new framework for development is an opportunity to unite around an inclusive vision, and join hands in constructing a shared future.The National Planning Commission has cautioned that our development objectives will take time and hard work to achieve. Measured year by year, district by district, there will be advances and there will be setbacks. But in each five-year term of government we must demonstrate, as we have since 1994, that we can meet more demanding milestones – more jobs, more enterprises, more technological innovation, better housing, progress in education and health.Working together we all know that we can do better. All of us – citizens, taxpayers, public servants, teachers, activists, managers, workers – we all have a shared future, and we have a shared plan to make it work.The Batswana people say, “Sedikwa ke ntšwa pedi ga se thata” – working together we can do more!Overview of the 2013 budgetThe 2013 budget is presented in challenging times, but against the background of a new strategic framework for growth and development. This is a budget in which there is limited room for expansion, yet there are significant opportunities for change.There are signs of improvement in the world economy, though the outlook remains troubled.South Africa’s economy has continued to grow, but at a slower rate than projected at the time of the 2012 budget.The 2013 budget takes the National Development Plan as its point of departure. The strategic plans of government and the medium-term expenditure plans will be aligned to realise our objectives.Government has taken measures to control growth in spending. Spending plans have been reduced by R10.4-billion through reprioritisation, savings and a draw-down on the contingency reserve.Government remains committed to a large-scale infrastructure investment programme.Our path of spending and the recovery in revenue will stabilise debt at just higher than 40% of GDP. The budget deficit will fall from 5.2% of GDP in 2012/13 to 3.1% in 2015/16.A review will be initiated this year of our tax policy framework and its role in supporting the objectives of inclusive growth, employment, development and fiscal sustainability.In the 2013/14 fiscal year, personal income tax relief of R7-billion is granted.A new local government equitable share formula is proposed, providing a subsidy for free basic services designed to reach 59% of households.Further education and training will continue to be extended and enhanced.And following careful consideration of inputs from various stakeholders, a revised youth employment incentive will be tabled in the House, together with a proposed employment incentive for special economic zones.In this budget we continue to invest in education, health, housing, public transport and social development – components of the social wage which add up to about 60% of public expenditure.Global situationThere are signs of improvement in the world economy, though the outlook remains troubled. Growth is still muted in the US and Japan, and much of Europe is in recession.Policy interventions by the major central banks were needed during 2012 to avert new economic and fiscal crises. Yet many advanced economies contracted during the fourth quarter of 2012 and global prospects are expected to improve only marginally, from growth of 3.2% in 2012 to 3.5% in 2013. Emerging markets, particularly China and India, continue to lead global growth, although at lower rates than before.High levels of debt are inhibiting progress in many countries. Yet measures to reduce indebtedness have the effect of holding back growth. Unemployment remains high in many countries, yet technological progress continues to reduce demand for labour in many industries. Around the world, inequality is fuelling discontent.So there are parallels between the global economic discourse and our own policy challenges. In seeking a pragmatic balance between recovery and consolidation, between economic power and social solidarity, between infrastructure investment and human development, between encouraging enterprise and regulating markets – we are grappling with issues that confront many other nations.South Africa’s economic outlookSouth Africa’s economy has continued to grow, but at a slower rate than projected at the time of the 2012 budget. GDP growth reached 2.5% in 2012 and is expected to grow at 2.7% in 2013, rising to 3.8% in 2015. Inflation has remained moderate, with consumer prices rising by 5.7% in 2012 and projected to increase by an average of 5.5% a year over the period ahead.However, our trade performance is holding us back. Exports grew by just 1.1% in real terms last year, while imports increased by 7.2%. The deficit on the current account of the balance of payments was 6.1% of GDP. This means, in simple terms, that expenditure in the South African economy exceeded the value of production and income by about R190-billion last year. This is partly a consequence of the disruption of mining sector activity and the structural reduction in mineral exports due to lower demand.Some of the foundations of faster growth are in place. Strong capital investment by the public sector, the addition of electricity-generating capacity, relatively stable inflation and low interest rates will support improved growth rates over the medium term.But this is not enough. Much more is needed. In particular, a significant increase in private sector investment and competitiveness is needed in the wider economy: agriculture, manufacturing, tourism, communications – every sector has to play its part in expanding trade, investment and job creation.The National Development Plan: a new trajectoryThe NDP, supported by the New Growth Path and other programmes, invites us to look beyond the constraints of the present to the transformation imperatives of the next 20 and 30 years.These imperatives are already apparent in the realities of the social and economic restructuring that is under way.The first reality is our demographic transition – a million young people leave school every year, and we need a package of reforms that will improve education, training and work opportunities for young people.The second is that we are a rapidly urbanising society. This means we need to meet urgent demand for housing, municipal services, schools, clinics, public transport and commercial development, but it is also means we have an opportunity to build an integrated urban landscape, with effective partnerships between municipalities, local businesses and civic associations.A third imperative is economic competitiveness. We need to invest in infrastructure, raise productivity and diversify our economy, to create jobs and raise living standards.Improving the quality of education and training is an essential foundation of a more productive and inclusive growth path.Stronger links with Africa and other emerging economies are needed.We have to adapt to a low-carbon economy, including mobilisation of our renewable energy potential.Finally there is the social solidarity challenge that cuts across all of these, which is to build a more equal and inclusive economy that bridges our racial and other divides.These are themes on which the NDP provides clear guidance, not just about strategic goals and objectives, but also about the practical difficulties and choices we face.There are substantial strengths on which to build – a well-established legal system, secure property rights, an effective tax system, world-class higher education institutions and science councils, established energy, transport, water and communications infrastructure networks, expertise and capacity in many areas – mining, construction, retail, finance, logistics and manufactured exports – and a sound macroeconomic and fiscal framework.While building on these strengths, we have to tackle our weaknesses aggressively. The NDP emphasises key institutional capabilities:The need to professionalise the public service and strengthen accountability,Improved management and enforcement systems to fight corruption,Reinforcement of the education accountability chain, with lines of responsibility from state to classroom,Improved planning and management of strategic infrastructure projects.The NDP also highlights the need to lower the cost of living for households, and to reduce the cost of doing business for small and emerging enterprises.Let me also reiterate the NDP’s emphasis on uniting South Africans around a common vision: it proposes a social compact to reduce poverty and inequality, and raise employment and investment, recognising that progress towards a more equal society requires shared efforts across the public and private sectors.And so the 2013 Budget takes the National Development Plan as its point of departure.It recognises that our medium-term plans are framed in the context of a long-term vision and strategy.It focuses on strengthening growth and employment creation.It prioritises improvements in education and expansion of training opportunities.It promotes progress towards a more equal society and an inclusive growth path.The fiscal framework and long-term sustainabilityNational development must be coupled with fiscal sustainability, which ensures that the progress we make will not be interrupted or reversed. The government relies on resources derived from the wider economy, and the best way to generate resources is to grow the economy faster and increase the tax base.The NDP targets an annual growth rate of more than 5% a year. This would double the resources available to government in the next two decades.The present reality is that growth is more modest. The economic turbulence we experienced in the second half of last year has resulted in a revenue shortfall amounting to R16.3-billion. The deficit is now estimated to be 5.2% of GDP in 2012/13. The growth outlook for the next three years has weakened, and government’s net debt is now expected to stabilise marginally higher than 40% of GDP.In the Medium Term Budget Policy Statement, we noted that if the economic environment were to deteriorate, government would reassess its revenue and spending plans to secure South Africa’s fiscal footing. In the circumstances, our approach involves several elements:Additional measures to control spending, reducing real expenditure growth to an average of 2.3% over the next three years, compared with 2.9% signalled in October 2012A reduction in the budget deficit to 3.1% by 2015/16, a level consistent with the stabilisation of debtSteps to reinforce growth, building on the competitiveness enhancement programme introduced last yearInitiation of a tax policy reviewA comprehensive review of expenditure, focusing on both spending controls and value for money in government programmes and agenciesStrengthening the capacity of the state to implement our plans and programmes.Government is committed to remaining within the expenditure ceiling set out in the budget. New policy initiatives over the next three years will be financed from savings, efficiency gains and reprioritisation.Structural increases in spending require corresponding revenue increases if they are to be financed sustainably. If we succeed in driving growth towards 5% a year and government revenue doubles in the next 20 years, major infrastructure projects and new policy initiatives such as national health insurance and expanded vocational education will be affordable with limited adjustments to tax policy. But if growth continues along the present trajectory, substantial spending commitments would require significant adjustments in revenue and reductions in other areas of spending.On Parliament’s request, National Treasury has prepared a report that considers fiscal sustainability from a long-term perspective. The report is currently being considered within government, after which it will be tabled for Parliament’s consideration.Growing the real economyGrowing the economy means expanding business activity. We recognise the key role that private companies play in our economy.In the lead-up to the Budget, we engaged with several business leaders on the investment and development challenges we face. Allow me to share with you some of their plans, which signal growing confidence in the business outlook, despite difficult conditions.Construction and refurbishment by a company in the hospitality sector firm of R2.5-billion in the next 18 months and expansion of R3-billion in the pipelineTwo telecommunications investments amounting to R14-billion this yearCapital expenditure of R3.4-billion over the next three years by a rail and logistics operatorA R2.5-billion expansion and longer-term plans of R15-billion in mining projectsInvestment of R1.4-billion this year by a leading retailer, and plans to open 100 new stores by anotherAn expansion of R1.2-billion this year by a food and beverage sector firmPlans for R28.5-billion in long-term infrastructure investment by a leading industrial company, which will create 10 000 temporary and 4 000 permanent jobs.In recent times, the world has become a more uncertain place for businesses, causing some to build cash reserves rather than invest in new or expanding operations. As government, we wish to encourage businesses to keep investing in our economy, and seize the opportunities around us. We are therefore reinforcing several initiatives that support business development:The Manufacturing Competitiveness Enhancement Programme (MCEP), announced in 2012, has received a total of 215 applications with requests for grants totalling R2.3-billion mainly from the chemicals, metals and agro-processing sectors. Applications are expected to increase over the period ahead and funding of R1.5-billion per year has been provided on the budget of the Department of Trade and Industry.The Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Programme, also announced last year, has received funding to build world class industrial parks. I am in discussion with Minister Davies on specific tax incentives to enhance this initiative.The Jobs Fund announced in the 2011 Budget has concluded two calls for proposals. In total, 3 614 applications have been received, and 65 projects approved. Grant funding of R3.3-billion has been approved, matched by a further R3.1-billion in funding raised by the private sector.Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) play a key role in the development of the economy and are a significant generator of employment. Financing of SMMEs has been simplified with the creation of the Small Enterprise Finance Agency last year. We have been progressively working to simplify the tax requirements for small business. The turnover threshold will be increased this year and the graduated rate structure will be revised.Regional IntegrationAfrica is our home, and it is our future. It is a market of over one-billion people and it is growing rapidly.The National Development Plan acknowledges the global shift of economic power from West to East, and highlights the rise of Africa.Indeed, we have already begun to see our trade patterns shift from traditional partners in Europe and the United States to new markets in Asia and Africa.Africa now accounts for about 18% of our total exports, and nearly a quarter of our manufactured exports.Over the past five years, the South African Reserve Bank has approved nearly 1 000 large investments into 36 African countries. These are mutually beneficial, as they support development in those countries, and also generate tax revenue, dividends and jobs both abroad as well as in South Africa. To further support the private sector in expanding operations in Africa, I will announce simpler rules that will reduce the time and costs of doing business in Africa.A number of measures are proposed to relax cross-border financial regulations and tax requirements on companies, making it easier for banks and other financial institutions to invest and operate in other countries. Similar measures will apply to foreign companies wanting to invest in African countries using South Africa as their regional headquarters. The outward investment reforms that apply as part of the Gateway to Africa reforms will also pertain to those companies seeking to invest in countries outside Africa, including Brics countries.In addition, substantial direct investments in regional development are underway:We are helping to build infrastructure that will create opportunities for South African companies to expand trade and investment across the border. The DBSA is accelerating investment into the SADC region. We are supporting infrastructure projects in multiple countries, particularly in the key areas of electricity generation and transmission, and in strengthening road links in the region.Investment by the Industrial Development Corporation in 41 projects across 17 countries totalled R6.2-billion in 2012. The bulk of those projects are in mining, industrial infrastructure, agro-processing and tourism.As part of its long-term strategy to help secure energy supply for South Africa and the region, Eskom is considering options for investment in several regional generation and transmission projects.Working with our Brics partnersNext month, we will host the 5th annual Brics Summit, which brings together Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The summit will unveil the work we have been doing with our BRICS partners on the following projects:The possible establishment of a BRICS-led bank is intended to mobilise domestic savings and co-fund infrastructure in developing regionsThe pooling of members’ foreign exchange reserves with the view of using them to support each other at times of balance of payments or currency crisis. Collectively, BRICS countries hold reserves totalling US$4.5-trillion.Work is underway on creating a trade and development insurance risk pool. The aim is to establish a sustainable and alternative insurance and reinsurance network for the BRICS countries.Financing infrastructure investmentThe NDP reminds us that “South Africa needs to invest in a strong network of economic infrastructure designed to support the country’s medium- and long-term economic and social objectives.”Over the next three years, R827-billion is planned to be spent by the fiscus and state-owned companies to build infrastructure. The financing for these projects is in place, and is not affected by the spending cuts in the budget.The fiscus has allocated just under R430-billion for schools, hospitals, clinics, dams, water and electricity distribution networks, electrification of over a million new homes, sanitation schemes, building more courtrooms and prisons, and improved bus, commuter rail and road links. Most of the spending falls under provinces and municipalities.Eskom, Transnet and other State-Owned Companies fund a further R400-billion of projects. This will be financed both through own resources and additional borrowing over the next three years, supported by Treasury guarantees.This will pay for the ongoing building of power generation plants and new transmission lines, investment in rail, ports and pipelines, large new water transfer schemes, and various airport upgrades.Of course, we are well aware that there are parts of government that struggle to spend their full infrastructure budgets. It is important to bear in mind that spending programmes have become more ambitious, funding levels have increased, and pressure to deliver has intensified. Records show that government’s ability to spend has been steadily rising from year to year. But it is not yet fast enough.On this challenge, Willie du Preez expresses concern about whether infrastructure investment is actually taking place. He suggests: “As a citizen one should be able to obtain from the treasury website at the end of each financial year what amount was spent on what infrastructure.”Mr du Preez, you can already obtain that information from the treasury website, not just every year, but every month!Investing in Urban DevelopmentOur urban areas make a vital contribution to the national economy, hosting factories and offices and many work opportunities, and will always be attractive to young people seeking a better life. It is little surprise then that the Census 2011 shows that 62% of South Africans are now living in our cities and towns. And that the population of some municipalities grew by over 50% between 2001 and 2011.The challenge we face of highly inefficient, segregated and exclusionary divides between town and township imposes costs not only on the economy and the fiscus, but also on families and communities.A new formula for the local government equitable share will be introduced in 2013/14 that recognises the need to better differentiate assistance to different municipalities, including those in rural areas. Municipal infrastructure grants will also be re-aligned, and go hand in hand with more integrated planning of new developments, so that we can make meaningful strides in overcoming the spatial inequalities of the past.Low carbon economyThe Development Plan further calls on government to send a signal to industry and consumers that we are living in an environmentally stressed world.And so government proposes to price carbon by way of a carbon tax at the rate of R120 per ton of CO2 equivalent, effective from 1 January 2015. To soften the impact, a tax-free exemption threshold of 60% will be set, with additional allowances for emissions intensive and trade-exposed industries. An updated carbon tax policy paper will be published for further consultation by the end of March 2013.To ensure that South Africa produces fuel that is more environment-friendly, support mechanisms for both biofuel production and the upgrade of oil refineries to cleaner fuel standards will be introduced.In addition, government continues to direct spending towards environmental programmes, such as installing solar water geysers, procuring renewable energy, low carbon public transport, cleaning up derelict mines, addressing acid mine drainage, supporting our national parks, and in particular, to saving our rhino population, who remain under threat.We are also encouraging the private sector and smaller public entities to be creative and develop low-carbon projects through the Green Fund. In the first call for proposals, 590 applications were received. The R800-million that was previously allocated is to be topped up with an additional R300-million.The social wageThe NDP recognises that reducing the cost of living is essential for broadening economic participation and eliminating poverty. Alongside the “economic wage” earned through work, the “social wage” provided by government is a steadily rising contribution to the living conditions of working people and their families.Substantial growth in social spending over the past decade has financed a threefold increase in the number of people receiving social grants, a doubling in per capita health spending, construction of 1.5-million free homes and the provision of free basic education to the poorest 60% of learners. The impact is evident in improved living standards, expanded access to basic services and the changing landscape of both urban and rural areas.The social assistance budget has increased by an average of 11% a year since 2008/09, in part due to the extension of the child support grant to the age of 18. Spending on social assistance will rise to R120-billion next year.The old age and disability grants will increase in April from R1 200 a month to R1 260,The foster care grant will increase from R770 to R800, andThe child support grant will increase to R290 in April and R300 a month in October.It is also proposed that the old age grant means test should be phased out by 2016, accompanied by offsetting revisions to the secondary and tertiary rebates. All citizens over a designated age will be eligible for the grant, which will simplify its administration and address the disincentive to save that arises from the present means test.Alongside social assistance, access to health care is a vital element in the social wage. There has been progress in reducing mortality and improving our HIV and TB programmes, and an expansion in medical and nurse training capacity is under way.Pilot national health insurance projects have been initiated this year in 10 districts, and will include improvements to health facilities, contracting with general practitioners and financial management reforms. A new conditional grant is introduced this year to enable the national Department of Health to play a greater role in coordinating these reforms.The initial phase of NHI development will not place new revenue demands on the fiscus. Over the longer term, however, it is anticipated that a tax increase will be needed. The National Treasury is working with the Department of Health to examine the funding arrangements and system reforms required for NHI. A discussion paper inviting public comment on various options will be published this year.Government’s contribution to housing and basic municipal services is a substantial component of the social wage. The budget for housing and community amenities has increased by over 16% a year since 2008.Progress continues to be made in extending access to housing, electricity, water, sanitation and refuse removal services. The main contribution of the national budget to the financing of household amenities is the local government equitable share. A new equitable share formula is proposed in this budget, which will provide a subsidy of R275 for every household with a monthly income less than R2 300, or about 59% of all households.We also recognise that many businesses provide their employees with housing assistance or home loans. However, the current fringe benefit tax is unduly burdensome in cases where an employer transfers a house to a low-income worker at a price below market value. Tax relief is proposed to address this difficulty.The social wage complements employment earnings and contributes to a more equitable and inclusive economic growth path. National health insurance and further steps in social security reform will also reinforce social solidarity and the decent work agenda.Social spending, however, is not a substitute for job creation.One of our most pressing development challenges is to expand work opportunities for young people. There has been extensive debate on how this should be done. The answer is that a wide range of measures are needed, including further education, training, public employment opportunities and support for job creation in the private sector.To complement existing programmes, a tax incentive aimed at sharing the costs of employing young work-seekers will be tabled for consideration by Parliament. It will help young people enter the labour market to gain valuable experience and access career opportunities. A similar incentive is proposed for eligible workers of all ages within special economic zones.Financial services and retirement reformIn last year’s Budget, I indicated the need for South African households to save more. I am now able to announce the following proposals, for consultation before we introduce the necessary legislation later this year:Tax-preferred savings and investment accounts will be introduced in 2015.Retirement funds will be required to identify appropriate preservation funds for exiting members, who will be encouraged to preserve when changing jobs.Retirement funds will be required to guide their members through the process of converting savings into a regular income after retirement, and to choose or establish default annuity products that meet appropriate principles and standards. More competition will be promoted by allowing providers other than life offices to sell living annuities.The tax treatment of pension, provident and retirement annuity funds will be simplified and harmonised.Governance reforms of retirement funds will also be implemented, with measures in place to ensure trustees of retirement funds are trained once they have been appointed. I intend to call up a conference of all trustees this year to take this process forward.We are also considering how to encourage all employers to provide appropriate retirement mechanisms for their employees, as part of the broader social security reforms. In implementing these reforms, the vested rights of current members of retirement funds will be protected.Let me take this opportunity, to confirm that the Government Employees Pension Fund has remained fully funded despite the turmoil in financial markets in recent years. A 6% increase in civil service pensions will be effected in April this year.CreditThere has been rapid growth in unsecured credit in recent years. The share of new mortgage lending has fallen rapidly, and is now less than or almost equal to both new vehicle credit and new personal loans. We will engage with the banking sector to explore how to increase the level and share of new mortgage loans. Small business financing must also be supported to a far greater extent than is being done.We are concerned by the abuse of emolument attachment orders that has left many workers without money to live on after they have serviced their debts every month. We are in discussion with the National Credit Regulator, the Department of Justice and banks, to ensure that the lending market remedies its behaviour. In the meanwhile, all employers, including the public sector, can play a role and assist their workers to manage their finances and to interrogate all emolument attachment or garnishee orders to ensure that they have been properly issued. I also call on the various law societies to take action against members who abuse the system.Tax policyAllow me to turn now to the revenue proposals.We find ourselves in a challenging period, with revenues lower than expected by R16.3-billion compared with estimates at the time of the 2012 budget. This is predominantly due to weak economic growth during the second half of 2012, mining sector disruptions and lower commodity prices. Tax revenues are expected to improve over the medium-term in line with higher economic growth and the stabilization of key commodity prices.Over the past decade, we have steadily broadened the tax base, both through policy reforms and improved revenue administration. This has made substantial tax relief possible, contributing both to household disposable income and a lower cost of doing business.The main tax proposals for 2013 are as follows:Personal income tax relief of R7-billion, together with adjustments to the medical tax credit and other monetary thresholds, amounting to about R350-million.Reforms to the tax treatment of contributions to retirement savings.An employment incentive through the tax system for first-time job seekers.Further tax relief for small businesses, including an increase in the monetary tax thresholds applicable for small business corporations.An overall increase of 23 cents per litre in fuel levies in April, which includes 8 cents per litre in the road accident fund levy.Increases in excise duties on alcohol and tobacco products of between 5.7% and 10%, and • Introduction of the carbon tax in 2015, together with the phasing-out of the electricity levy.A tax review will be initiated this year to assess our tax policy framework and its role in supporting the objectives of inclusive growth, employment, development and fiscal sustainability, amongst other things.The Budget Review outlines various measures proposed to protect the tax base and limit the scope for tax leakage and avoidance. The taxation of trusts will come under review to control abuse; modifications are proposed to the tax treatment of employment share schemes and disability or income-protection policies; outstanding difficulties in the distinction between debt and equity will be addressed; and it is proposed that foreign businesses which sell e-books, music and other digital goods and services should be required to register as VAT vendors, in line with regulations which have been adopted by the European Union and other jurisdictions.Tax administrationMillions of honest taxpayers in our country continue to sustain our growth and development agenda. To them we owe a debt of gratitude and, more importantly, a commitment to spend that money wisely, efficiently and effectively. We thank you!Tax avoidanceWe also owe it to our taxpayers to ensure they are not carrying the burden of those who benefit from our country’s infrastructure and resources without paying their fair share of the costs.Around the world, taxpayers and their governments are challenging large multinational companies that pay little or no tax in the countries in which they operate. Meeting in Moscow earlier this month, finance ministers of the G20 countries were united in supporting an overhaul of international company tax rules to address this issue. The South African Revenue Service is currently engaging with companies that have their base of operations in SA but appear to have shifted a large proportion of their profits to low tax jurisdictions where only a few people are employed. This is unacceptable!SARS is also pursuing schemes identified under the revised general antiavoidance rules following several years’ painstaking work tracing transactions through multiple jurisdictions and entities. These benefits typically accrue to advisors and pre-existing shareholders, rather than new shareholders who were introduced as the ostensible beneficiaries of the transactions.Voluntary disclosureA temporary voluntary disclosure programme was implemented under legislation enacted in 2010 which allowed taxpayers in default to regularise their tax affairs. More than 18 000 taxpayers made use of the programme and tax of more than R3-billion has so far been collected as a result of the programme.From 1 October 2012, a permanent voluntary disclosure programme became effective as part of the Tax Administration Act (2011). Some 700 taxpayers have already come forward. Tax of more than R200-million will be collected before the end of March 2013.Non-complianceSARS is also targeting other areas of non-compliance, including recipients of government expenditure who are not up to date with their taxes. By working closely with Treasury and interfacing with the government payment system, SARS has identified companies who have received payments but have not declared their full income. They are being audited, and others will follow.This intervention will be further underpinned by the reform of the Tax Clearance Certificate process which I announced in October.In the near future, SARS will introduce a single registration process in which companies are able to register once-off in a simple manner for all tax types and customs activities.On this, we can perhaps consider adding the suggestion by Amanda Hayes, who runs a small business in Cape Town. She proposes that a single database of suppliers to government be created out of all the companies that apply to SARS for tax clearance certificates. In addition to reducing the burden on small businesses, Amanda says this database will help reduce corruption because of the tighter national oversight over companies who are registered.Medium-term expenditure framework and division of revenueI have indicated many of the specific programmes and activities of government that contribute to our growth and social development objectives. Allow me to summarise the framework within which these allocations are made.The 2013 Budget provides for continued real growth in spending to support service delivery, and to expand investment in infrastructure. It will also accommodate the costs of the three-year public service wage agreement signed last year.In the past, we have been able to add substantially to medium term spending plans during the budget, but this year is different. Money has been taken away from programmes that are not performing or are not aligned to government’s core priorities and given to programmes that are delivering as planned.The main appropriation provides for R1 055-billion in expenditure next year, rising to R1 226-billion in 2015/16. Debt-service costs will come to R100-billion next year, and R4-billion is set aside as a contingency reserve. This leaves R955-billion to be divided between the national, provincial and local spheres.National departments are allocated 47.6% of available funds in 2013/14.Provinces are allocated 43.5%, mainly for education, health and social welfare. Local government receives 8.9%, primarily for providing basic services to low-income households.Allocations from the contingency reserve will be made later in the year, mainly for unforeseeable and unavoidable expenditure. Work is in progress to determine funding requirements for reconstruction and rehabilitation following flood damage in Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Mpumalanga. An allocation will also be made in the adjustments appropriation for the Dinaledi schools connectivity programme and other broadband infrastructure projects, subject to finalisation of implementation plans.The equitable division of revenue between provinces and municipalities takes into account the 2011 Census, which shows substantial shifts in the distribution and age structure of the population since 2001. The changes to provincial and municipal allocations will be phased in to avoid disruption of services.Allocations to provinces and municipalitiesThe provincial equitable share amounts to R338-billion in 2013/14, and conditional grants to provinces will total R77-billion. Additional allocations have been made to increase employment of social workers and to provide additional support to non-governmental organisations which provide critical welfare services. There is additional funding for teachers in the poorest 20% of schools and grade R classes, and for community library services. Provinces are also funded for an expansion in HIV and Aids programmes and an improved TB diagnosis system.Infrastructure transfers to provinces have increased sharply in recent years, growing from R4.8-billion in 2005/06 to R39.7-billion in 2012/13. To improve the quality of spending, the application process for infrastructure grants is being revised: provinces will be required to submit building plans two years ahead of implementation and will only receive allocations if plans meet certain benchmarks.A total of R85-billion is allocated for transfer to municipalities in 2013/14, rising to R101-billion in 2015/16. Additional allocations are made for municipal water infrastructure, public transport and integrated city development.Consolidated government expenditureThere is considerable detail in the Budget Review and the Estimates of National Expenditure on government spending plans and service delivery targets. I will highlight just a few key points.Consolidated government expenditure is budgeted to increase by 8.1% a year, from R1.1-trillion in 2012/13 to R1.3-trillion in 2015/16.Job creation and labourAllocations for employment programmes increase by 13.5% a year over the next three years.There will be higher funding for employment projects of non-governmental organisations and for Working for Fisheries. The expanded public works programme aims to support 684 800 fulltime equivalent jobs in 2013/14.Additional allocations are also made for the sheltered employment factories of the Department of Labour, and to support the work of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.Health and social protectionConsolidated spending on health and social protection is R268-billion in 2013/14.Health infrastructure remains a priority. In 2012, a total of 1 967 health facilities and 49 nursing colleges were in different stages of planning, construction and refurbishment.Substantial improvements in the social assistance payments system are in progress, providing easier access by recipients to their grants. The cost of social grants payments has been reduced from R32 to R16 per disbursement.Education, sport and cultureSpending on education, sport and culture will amount to R233-billion in 2013/14. Over the period ahead, the basic education sector will focus on improving numeracy and literacy, expanding enrolment in grade R and reducing school infrastructure backlogs. Together with the broader education infrastructure grant, R23.9-billion is available to provincial education departments for infrastructure over the next three years.R700-million has been allocated over the MTEF period for the technical secondary schools recapitalisation grant. This will finance construction and refurbishment of 259 workshops and training of over 1 500 technology teachers.Transfers to higher education institutions increase from R20.4-billion in 2012/13 to R24.6 billion in 2015/16. The total number of students enrolled in higher education institutions is expected to increase from 910 000 currently to 990 000 in 2015. Funding has been allocated for the construction of new universities in the Northern Cape and Mpumalanga to commence this year.Economic servicesExpenditure on economic services in 2013/14 will amount to R48-billion, including R5.3-billion for the manufacturing competiveness enhancement programme and R2.9-billion for special economic zones.Additional allocations include R450-million over three years to the Economic Development Department for the Small Enterprise Finance Agency. The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries will continue its support for smallholder farmers. Additional funding goes to the Department of Mineral Resources to support beneficiation and rehabilitate derelict and ownerless mines.The allocation to the Department of Science and Technology includes R2-billion to support the Square Kilometre Array project.Transport, energy and communicationsExpenditure on transport, energy and communications will amount to R89-billion next year.The allocation to the Department of Transport increases from R42.3-billion next year to R53.4-billion in 2015/16, reflecting increased allocations to the Passenger Rail Agency for its rolling stock procurement programme and further investment in the national road network. Additional funding goes to integrated public transport networks in urban areas, and for provincial road maintenance.The integrated national electrification grant is allocated additional funding to increase the number of new electricity connections by 645 000 over the next three years. The solar water geyser programme will be continued until 2015/16 and Sentech will receive R599-million over the medium term for the migration from analogue to digital terrestrial television.Local government, community amenities and housingLocal government, community amenities and housing are allocated R132-billion in 2013/14. The largest increases go to bulk water, water treatment and water distribution projects, and allocations to the local government equitable share.R4.3-billion is allocated to a new grant to be administered by the Department of Water Affairs, providing for water treatment, distribution, demand management and support for rural municipalities. The Municipal Infrastructure Support Agency of the Department for Cooperative Governance receives R820-million to provide technical assistance to rural and low-capacity municipalities.Funding for improving human settlements will grow from R26.2-billion to R30.5-billion over the next three years, including R1.1-billion to support the informal settlement upgrading programme in mining towns. Social housing receives an additional allocation of R685-million.General public servicesThe general public services function is allocated R57-billion in 2013/14. This includes the Sars budget of R9.5-billion, which is just over 1% of revenue to be collected.The Department of Public Works reprioritised R464 million over the medium term to fund its turnaround strategy, which focuses on lease and property management portfolios. The Public Service Commission receives R71.4-million to combat corruption and address grievances.Over the MTEF period, the Department of Home Affairs will spend R1-billion on its information systems modernisation programme, which has already led to substantial reductions in the time required to produce official documents.The allocations for defence, public order and safety amount to R154-billion in 2013/14.Provision is made for peace-keeping operations in the Central African Republic, where 400 defence force personnel have been deployed.The Department of Police has reprioritised R2.5-billion over the MTEF to improve detective and forensic capability. The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development receives R1.2 billion for the criminal justice sector revamp and modernisation programme. There is increased funding allocated to the National Prosecuting Authority for the Thuthuzela Care Centres. The Public Protector of South Africa receives funding to increase its investigative capacity and additional funds are also made to Legal Aid South Africa and the South African Human Rights Commission.Procurement and combating corruptionLast year I said to this House that we will continually endeavour to increase the value which government receives for the money it spends.Let me be frank. This is a difficult task with too many points of resistance!However, we have registered some progress. In the present system, procurement transactions take place at too many localities and the contracts are short term. Consequently there are hundreds of thousands of transactions from a multitude of centres. There is very little visibility of all these transactions.While our ablest civil servants have had great difficulty in optimising procurement, it has yielded rich pickings for those who seek to exploit it. There are also too many people who have a stake in keeping the system the way it is.Our solutions, hitherto, have not matched the size and complexity of the challenge. As much as I want, I cannot simply wave a magic wand to make these problems disappear. This is going to take a special effort from all of us in government, assisted by people in business and broader society. And it will take time. But we are determined to make progress.The process for setting up the Chief Procurement Office (CPO) in the National Treasury has begun in earnest and I shall soon be able to announce the name of a chief procurement officer. A project team seconded from state agencies and the private sector has identified four main streams of work, involving immediate remedial actions, improving the current system, standardising the defence, public order and safety procurement of critical items across all government and the long-term modernisation of the entire system.Among the first initiatives of the CPO will be to enhance the existing system of price referencing. This will set fair value prices for certain goods and services.Secondly, it will pilot procurement transformation programmes in the Departments of Health and Public Works, nationally and in the provinces.National Treasury is currently scrutinising 76 business entities with contracts worth R8.4-billion which we believe have infringed the procurement rules, while SARS is currently auditing more than 300 business entities and scrutinising another 700 entities. The value of these contracts is estimated at over R10-billion. So far 216 cases have been finalised resulting in assessments amounting to over R480-million being raised. The Financial Intelligence Centre has referred over R6.5-billion for investigation linked to corrupt activities.I fully support Minister Sisulu’s call for appropriate curbs on officials doing business with government. I will complement her initiative by aligning the Public Finance Management Act with the provisions of the Public Service Act.Worldwide, special measures are being taken to oversee the accounts of what have become known as “politically exposed persons” – public representatives and senior officials. I have asked that the FIC should explore how we might bring South Africa into line with these international anti-corruption and anti-money laundering standards.Taxpayers, and indeed all South Africans are understandably impatient for tangible change. A recurring theme in the tips sent to me for this budget was to ensure value for money. Peter Maibelo, aged 24, from Pretoria, summed it up as follows: “Minister I won’t be fancy with words or complicated ideas … my advice for a healthy and sustainable fiscus is to brutally eradicate corruption, then we will be honoured to pay taxes.”Mr Maibelo, I couldn’t agree more. Rooting out corruption requires collective effort from all of us.ConclusionMy sincere appreciation goes to President Zuma and Deputy President Motlanthe for their guidance and support.My appreciation also goes to Colleagues of the Ministers’ Committee on the Budget, for their continuous and vigorous engagement with the challenges that face us, and their bold and steadfast advice to Cabinet.I wish to thank my Cabinet colleagues who collectively own this budget. Their support and understanding for tough measures is highly appreciated.A heartfelt thank you to Deputy Minister Nene, whose vigilant participation and sound advice is invaluable to me.My thanks to the MECs of finance, who play a critical role as guardians of 43% of our spending.Our appreciation also goes to:Governor Gill Marcus and the deputy governor of the South African Reserve Bank, for their constructive management of monetary policy,Commissioner Oupa Magashula and the staff of the South African Revenue Service for their diligent contribution to fiscal stability – I hope better times return for them soon!The Financial and Fiscal Commission and its acting chairperson, for their contributions,Mr Jabu Moleketi, chairperson of the DBSA and its new CEO, Mr Patrick Dlamini, who are positioning the DBSA to make a greater contribution to infrastructure development,The chairperson of the Land Bank, Mr Ngubane, and CEO Mr Phakamani Hadebe, for their illustrious service to the bank,The leadership of the Public Investment Corporation, the Financial Services Board, the Financial Intelligence Centre and the Government Pension Administration Agency,The managing director of Nedlac, Mr Alistair Smith, and the constituency representatives for their engagements with the Treasury,The Honourable Thaba Mufamadi and Charel de Beer, who chair the Standing and Select Committees on Finance respectively, and the chairpersons of the Appropriations Committees, the Honourable Elliot Sogoni and Tebogo Chaane, who ensure that Parliament remains a vibrant forum for engagement, accountability and public participation,Director-General Lungisa Fuzile (and Mrs Fuzile) for his professionalism, frankness and profound commitment to building credible institutions and advancing government’s objectives,The management team and staff of the National Treasury, whose extraordinary contributions and caring for a better South Africa enhance our country’s standing in international fora,My Chief of Staff, Dondo Mogajane, and the ministry staff for their enthusiastic support,My very supportive family who make my contributions possible.And finally, I must express sincere gratitude to South Africans from all parts of the country who offer words of encouragement – as well as critiques and concerns! This is what keeps us accountable and drives us to constantly improve.The key pillars of this budget are:Global growth is improving, though uncertainty remains.South Africa’s economy must grow faster and more inclusively.Future growth is also dependent on private-sector investment in the economy.The National Development Plan will be implemented by government and budgets will be aligned to it.Government continues to invest significantly in infrastructureWe are taking additional steps to create opportunities for young people.Reduced revenue results in less spending in the years ahead unless the economy grows.There are new opportunities to be seized in Africa and other emerging markets.We have committed to reviewing and assessing our tax policy framework and its role in supporting the objectives of inclusive growth, employment, development and fiscal sustainability.A new local government formula benefits rural municipalities.Honourable Speaker, I table this budget in the hope that as a nation we will be able to rise above our sectional interest, and, as you said Mr President, prevail with greater maturity, pull together and take this country forward.We have said that South Africa is changing. Let us work together to ensure that really, tomorrow, will be better than today.In conclusion, let me remind this House of what former President Nelson Mandela said: “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead…”I thank you.last_img read more


Breaking News in the Industry: July 18, 2018

first_imgSuspect drags LP associate through mall parking lotA Florida man was arrested on multiple charges after dragging a Dillard’s loss prevention associate from his car in the Melbourne Square Mall parking lot. Melbourne police said that 42-year-old Cleon Demitris Leeks, of Palm Bay, was charged with Aggravated Battery with a Deadly Weapon, Driving on a Suspended License, Leaving a Scene of a Crash with Injury, Petit Theft, and Resisting an Officer.On Saturday, at approximately 2:00 p.m., a loss prevention associate observed Leeks conceal a pink Ralph Lauren polo shirt in his shorts. Leeks then left Dillard’s and entered the driver’s side door of a 2016 Kia as the LP associate ran after him. As Leeks backed up, the door struck the associate, knocking him down to the pavement. “He was then dragged approximately 10 to 15 feet,” police said. Leeks also ran over the associates’s ankle, failing to stop despite pleas to do so. The LP associate was transported to Holmes Regional Medical Center. A few miles away, Melbourne police found Leeks and initiated a traffic stop where he was arrested. Bond set at $31,500.   [Source: Palm Bay Daily]Pair suspected of using children in retail robberiesDarrell Campbell, 32, and Jeammie Preston, 31, both of Moreno Valley, are facing charges of conspiracy, second-degree robbery, child endangerment and grand theft, and they’re being held at Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility in Banning in lieu of $245,000 and $210,000 bail, respectively, according to online jail records. They were arrested Thursday.- Sponsor – Campbell and Preston are scheduled to make a court appearance Tuesday at the Riverside Hall of Justice, jail records state. In June, sheriff’s deputies in Moreno Valley began investigating multiple commercial robberies in the city, according to a Riverside County sheriff’s news release. Deputies learned a man and woman, later identified as Campbell and Preston, conspired to commit robberies and used children to carry stolen merchandise out of major retail businesses, the release stated.In some cases, the man directed the children to grab specific merchandise and then walk out of the business to a waiting vehicle where the woman waited as the getaway driver. While exiting the business, loss prevention officers were threatened with a knife, according to the news release. Investigators found evidence that the couple conducted similar thefts as far back as October in Menifee, Eastvale, Riverside, Lake Elsinore, Glendora and San Bernardino, the release said. During the investigation, deputies gathered significant evidence against the suspects and identified the two adults and juveniles.On Thursday, Campbell and Preston were arrested in the 25000 block of Alessandro Boulevard in Moreno Valley, according to the news release. Child Protective Services took custody of three children, the release stated. Anyone with information about the investigation can call Officer June, of the Robbery and Burglary Suppression Team, at the Moreno Valley station by calling 951.486.6700. Citizens can also submit a tip using the Sheriff’s CrimeTips online form.   [Source: The Press-Enterprise]Gas pump hackers chargedWayne County Illinois Prosecutor Kym Worthy has charged two men for allegedly hacking a Detroit gas station and stealing over 600 gallons of gas. The incident occurred on June 23 at a Marathon gas station in the 17800 block of W. Seven Mile on the city’s west side. Reginald Hollien, 34, and Damon Blocker, 29, both of Detroit, are charged with use of a computer to commit a crime, organized retail crime and larceny of $1,000 to $20,000. “The alleged actions of these defendants show a critical need for the protection of businesses in Wayne County,” Worthy said in a release. “We must ensure that businesses in this County are fully supported and protected.”While at the gas station, the defendants allegedly sold and accepted cash for the gas, a press release states. Once gas attendants discovered what was happening, they attempted to disable the pump by computer. The attempt was unsuccessful and eventually, the attendants had to activate an emergency shut off, that’s when the suspects fled. They were then arrested by Detroit police on July 9. Hollien and Blocker were arraigned on Wednesday, July 11. Blocker received a $75,000/10 percent bond, while Hollien received a $50,000/10 percent bond.   [Source: WXYZ Detroit News]Police arrest three for stolen lingerieThree women from outside of Wichita Falls, Texas, reportedly from Georgia, Florida and New York, have been arrested and charged with organized retail theft, accused of taking nearly $700 in merchandise from Victoria’s Secret in Sikes Senter Mall. Located in their purses, according to Wichita Falls police, were anti-theft deactivation instruments.Wichita Falls Police Information Officer Harold McClure said officers responded to a theft from Victoria’s Secret shortly before 4 p.m. Friday. According to McClure, when the officer arrived, law enforcement was told that three Hispanic females suspects had left in a red vehicle. The officers located the vehicle in a nearby shopping center parking lot where three Hispanic females exited the vehicle.When the three were asked where they were coming from, they said they were driving from Atlanta on their way to Houston. Once the officers informed them they had received a call that a theft had been committed from the Victoria’s Secret and that they matched the suspects’ descriptions, they became very nervous, McClure said. When the suspects were asked if there was anything illegal or stolen in the vehicle, all three shook their heads yes, McClure told the Times Record News.The officer, McClure said, located a large duffel bag with 10 pairs of Victoria’s Secret pants with the tags and anti-theft devices inside valued at $695. The officers also located two purses that were lined with anti-theft deactivation instruments. The officers also located a magnet instrument used to remove anti-theft devices from merchandise. A loss prevention associate arrived on the scene and stated that they observed two of the suspects enter the store while the third stood outside as a lookout. All three were arrested and charged with Organized Retail Theft and Possession/Manufacture/Distribution of items used to commit theft.   [Source: Times Record News]Employee facing several counts of fraud after stealingA Louisiana woman is facing several counts of fraud after authorities say she stole money from a pizza restaurant. On Monday, police were notified of a theft by fraud that occurred at the Baker Domino’s on Main Street. According to the arrest report, an employee had stolen over $3,000 in funds from the business over the course of two weeks. The thief was identified as Jacobi Duncan.A district manager contacted authorities about the theft. Authorities say the district manager discovered the theft after receiving e-mail statements from the owner of the store. While completing the monthly audit, the manager discovered excessive mileage payouts for employees of the Baker store that were three times above the average for store employees. When the employees were asked about the payouts, they said none of them had received any additional funds above their normal salary pay.Reports say that Duncan was an assistant manager at the store and had access to the records, and the power to change them. During an investigation, it was discovered that there was an excessive amount of cancellations for orders that had been made in the store, which averaged between five and eight cancellations per night. It was also discovered that all of the cancellations had been paid for in cash. Records show that Duncan handled the cancellations. Duncan is charged with 68 counts of computer fraud, 33 counts of access device fraud, and 35 counts of public payroll fraud.    [Source: WBRZ2 News]UPS launches pilot to deliver packages in apartment buildingsUPS has launched a pilot program to deliver packages inside apartment buildings in New York City using Latch, a smart lock system, according to a press release. Through the program, a UPS driver receives credentials to enter apartment buildings that have Latch devices enabled, allowing the driver to deliver packages when residents are not home. UPS will only enter apartment buildings, not individual residents’ units. UPS started the pilot in Manhattan in March and recently expanded to Brooklyn, with expansion into other markets expected in the future. Latch said 20 million multi-family residential units exist across the U.S.    [Source: SupplyChainDIVE] Stay UpdatedGet critical information for loss prevention professionals, security and retail management delivered right to your inbox.  Sign up nowlast_img read more


What Catches AT&T’s Attention on Twitter? 17th Century Japanese Poetry of Course

first_imgEarlier today, our Sarah Perez reported on the news that AT&T had taken to Twitter to respond to the legions of customers (myself included) who regularly have to deal with various connectivity nightmares with their iPhones.As someone who likes to complain, I’ve found that doing it on Twitter is hit and miss at best. Sure, pioneers like @comcastcares and Zappos made us think that great customer service via social media channels was more the norm and the exception, but we know better. It’s often the “influencers” who have traditionally gotten the quick responses from big brands. That dynamic is changing as brands start figuring out that social media is two-way communication, but the change is still slow. That said, how can customer gripes stand out on Twitter? If they’re in haiku form of course!Today we asked our million plus followers to submit their AT&T woes in haiku form, using the #atthaiku hashtag. As expected, they came through in fine fashion with some very creative, funny and inspiring submissions.How effective was our exercise? AT&T started to respond to some our our submitters, and they even submitted their own haiku for good measure.While haiku won’t single-handedly solve AT&T’s myriad of issues, or prevent thousands from a mass exodus to Verizon in January, it does prove that 17th century Japanese poetry does a significant role in the marriage between social media and customer service. We once again utilized Storify to capture the best haiku from our great followers. Enjoy! 8 Best WordPress Hosting Solutions on the Market seamus condron A Web Developer’s New Best Friend is the AI Wai… Top Reasons to Go With Managed WordPress Hostingcenter_img Related Posts Why Tech Companies Need Simpler Terms of Servic… Tags:#community#web last_img read more


Mastercard eyeing to tap growing Indian e-commerce market

first_imgFrom Natasha ChakuMelbourne, Jan 30 (PTI) Identifying India as one of the “fastest” growing e-commerce nations, a leading global credit card company has said it will increase its investments in the country where it has already grown by 30 per cent in the last two years.”India is one of the top priorities in the region. We have increased our investments in India by over 30 per cent in the last two years and we are going to increase it even more,” Sam Ahmed, Mastercards senior vice-president of marketing for Asia Pacific, told PTI here.Ahmed indicated that the companys investment plans were in line with the Indian governments “digital India” initiative and would help Indian consumers in digital payments in their daily lives.He said the company was looking at a number of digital payment innovations which were to be launched in India in future including face recognition, Masterpass and other online payment methods.He said mobile penetration in India was the highest and termed it as the key to get the users access to such digital payment innovations.Commenting on the flow of investments in India, Ahmed said the company was keen to support the digitisation move to help consumers understand about it.The investments will also be channelised towards the digital and e-commerce engine giving consumers what they need. we are planning to do this by partnering with small businesses and merchants and outbound travellers, he said.The company is eyeing to tap movie launches and sponsoring local sports as a part of its marketing campaigns.advertisement”Movies are such a passion in India. The area we are looking at is movie launches,” Ahmed said.Currently, the company has veteran Bollywood actor Anil Kapoor and his daughter Sonam Kapoor as its Brand ambassadors. PTI NC MRJlast_img read more





High potency cannabis use linked to psychosis finds study

first_imgImage Credit: Tunatura / Shutterstock By Dr. Ananya Mandal, MDMar 20 2019With more and more states and regions legalizing the use of medical marijuana or cannabis, experts are also looking at the long term effects of marijuana use and its safety. According to a new study published this week in the journal The Lancet Psychiatry, frequent use of marijuana can lead to psychotic episodes. Source: According to the researchers “high potency cannabis” especially contain over 10 percent tetrahydrocannabinol or THC. THC is the main compound in cannabis that is responsible for the psychoactive effects of the drug. High levels of THC exposure is associated with long term effects on the psyche say experts. The high potency cannabis is called skunk in the UK. The European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction and national data from the different countries created a database on the THC content of each of the products. Locally produced Dutch resin Nederhasj for example contains as high as 67 percent of THC.The authors noted that certain regions in London, Paris and Amsterdam have a higher incidence of new cases of psychosis. These are also regions where the high potency cannabis is available. They looked at 901 people aged between 18 and 64 years. These participants were diagnosed with their first episode of psychosis between May 2010 and April 2015. They were all residents of one of the 11 cities where the study took place. These cities were Amsterdam, Barcelona, London, Paris, other European cities and one city in Brazil. Apart from these participants, over 1200 healthy controls were also included in the study. Both groups were compared in terms of their cannabis use. Study author Marta Di Forti, psychiatrist and clinician scientist at King’s College London, said, “We asked people if they used cannabis, when did they start using it and what kind of cannabis.”Related StoriesNew study shows clear link between cannabis use and brain alterationsUCR biomedical professor to investigate how body’s cannabis-like molecules influence obesityCreating a physical and genetic map of Cannabis sativaResults revealed that those who regularly used cannabis were three times more likely to have psychotic episode compared to those who did not use the drug. The risk was raised in individuals who started smoking cannabis from the age of 15 or less. Di Forti said that high potency cannabis doubled the risks of getting psychosis. Daily users of high potency cannabis had a four times elevated risk of psychosis, the researchers said. Di Forti said, “…twenty years ago, there wasn’t much high potency cannabis available [in the market].”Suzanne Gage, a psychologist and epidemiologist at the University of Liverpool, in an accompanying commentary with the study said, “What this paper has done that’s really nice is they look at rates of psychosis and cannabis use in lots of different places where underlying rates of psychosis are different.” She added that the connection between the cities where high potency cannabis is available and incidence of psychosis has not been studied before. She said, “That’s a really interesting finding and that’s not something anyone has done before.”last_img read more


Lovebite inspired technology can cut the number of botched injections

first_imgMay 6 2019Technology inspired by love-bites can increase the diameter of veins by up to a third and cut the number of botched injections on the NHS, say researchers. Developed by Olberon Medical Innovations with support from Nottingham Trent University, it is based on a tourniquet that includes a manual pumping dome to create suction.The suction draws blood to the local area which increase the size of veins, making them easier to locate.The temperature of blood also increases in the local area, which allows for the use of infrared cameras to help identify hard to spot veins.Related StoriesRepurposing a heart drug could increase survival rate of children with ependymomaRevolutionary gene replacement surgery restores vision in patients with retinal degenerationNew network for children and youth with special health care needs seeks to improve systems of careEach year 30 million cannulations are performed on the NHS and up to a third fail first time, say the researchers. For children the figure is around 50 per cent, they add. After two failed attempts, a doctor is called.Named Vacuderm, the technology has just become available on the open market and aims to improve the psychological experience for patients. The researchers say the technology will also reduce waste and save money and time for the NHS.Professor Amin Al-Habaibeh, a Professor in Intelligent Engineering Systems, in the university’s School of Architecture Design and the Built Environment, said: Dr Arash Bakhtyari, Chief Executive Officer of Olberon Medical Innovations, said: Veins can be especially hard to find in people who have poor or no visible veins and in certain groups of people such as children and older people.If a clinician has to try several times to find a vein, it can be traumatic for both the practitioner and patient.But this simple technology, which works on a similar basis to a love-bite, could help reduce the number of botched injections significantly by making veins more prominent and easier to find.”center_img The Vacuderm was developed because patients had bad experiences with needle insertion and this study shows that the Vacuderm is likely to help with this.” Source: read more


National effort to document intricate cell types and states in breast cancer

first_imgWe are currently experiencing the incredible convergence of genomics, bioengineering and computational biology, which now enables us to understand the complexity of the human body in unprecedented resolution. The Human Breast Cell Atlas will not only allow us to identify previously unrealized cell types, but also lead to a better grasp of how these cells communicate with each other in normal tissue homeostasis and disease.”Kai Kessenbrock, Assistant professor of Biological Chemistry, UCI Related StoriesNanoparticles used to deliver CRISPR gene editing tools into the cellNew protein target for deadly ovarian cancerIt is okay for women with lupus to get pregnant with proper care, says new studyThe endeavor will generate a high-resolution, multidimensional depiction of the cell types and states in human breast tissue, as well as their variation across women, which will serve as a unique reference for studying conditions such as breast cancer, mastitis and lactation failure.Over the past year – also with Chan Zuckerberg Initiative funding – Kessenbrock and Lawson conducted a pilot project in which more than 200,000 breast tissue cells from 20 individuals were profiled. The team documented over 12 cell types and 31 states.In this new project, the researchers plan to greatly expand this initial effort by establishing a larger network of interdisciplinary investigators to build a breast cell atlas of 100 women of multiple ages, breast sizes/densities, ethnicities and body mass indexes with varied numbers of pregnancies and at different menstrual cycle and menopausal stages.”This work will provide invaluable new details about the complexity of the organ and how it functions in diverse populations, which will facilitate new breakthroughs in our knowledge of how breast cancer arises,” said Lawson, an assistant professor of physiology & biophysics. “I am confident that our work will impact the treatment of breast cancer patients in both the short and long term.”The Human Breast Cell Atlas Seed Network will be among 38 such groups – all with Chan Zuckerberg Initiative funding – contributing to the Human Cell Atlas, bringing together experimental scientists, computational biologists, software engineers and physicians in an international effort to map all cells in the human body as a resource for better understanding health and disease. All information will be available to the research community through the Human Cell Atlas data portal. Source:University of California – Irvine Reviewed by James Ives, M.Psych. (Editor)Jul 3 2019University of California, Irvine researchers will lead an unprecedented national effort to document the intricate cell types and states in breast tissue that underlie cancer. Compilation of the Human Breast Cell Atlas will be supported by a $4 million Seed Network grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.The UCI team – headed by Kai Kessenbrock and Devon Lawson of the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center – spans multiple schools and disciplines and includes Jered Haun of The Henry Samueli School of Engineering and clinical researchers Kari Kansal, Erin Lin and Ritesh Parajuli of the School of Medicine. They will collaborate with investigators from the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York.last_img read more


Smart mud to smooth the way for drilling wells

first_img Functionalized graphene oxide plays part in next-generation oil-well drilling fluids This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. “Most existing mudcake models assume a sudden change between the slurry and cake phases, which is not representative,” explains Liu. “Instead, we used equations that capture the gradual transition between void ratio, permeability and effective stresses to create a model that properly represents the evolution from mud slurry to mudcake.”Their results show that environmental factors including thermal, chemical and mechanical stresses play a critical role in excessive mudcake growth, along with high permeability and low mud viscosity which causes severe fluid loss within the system.”We also found that the total force acting on the pipe increases with time,” says Liu. “Therefore, our primary advice to avoid stuck pipes is to minimize time spent at a standstill. Drilling companies must also optimize mud design by taking complex downhole conditions into consideration.”The team is also working on engineered muds that allow users to monitor them directly. These include a new magnetic-sensitive mud, nanoparticle-based muds with unique properties, and stimuli-reactive muds that change properties upon request. A model developed by KAUST researchers provides insights into how drilling muds behave within wells and could help the oil industry avoid clogged wells. Credit: Qi Liu & Carlos Santamarina Explore further More information: Q. Liu et al. Mudcake growth: Model and implications, Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.petrol.2017.12.044 To ensure oil wells are safe and economically viable, it is vital to maintain their integrity. Engineers have spent decades optimizing drilling muds, which are pumped into new wells to reduce friction and keep the drill bit clean. Once in the well, the liquid element of the mud seeps into surrounding rock leaving solid particles to create a mudcake, which lines the well walls to stabilize them.However, the behavior of drilling muds within wells is highly complex, and their efficacy depends on many factors, such as temperature, salinity and permeability, within the mud itself and in the surrounding rock. Ineffective muds can clog the well and lead to stuck pipe—an expensive and time-consuming problem for the oil industry.KAUST’s Qi Liu and Carlos Santamarina have developed a sophisticated model of mudcake formation from water-based drilling muds for the oil industry. Their model provides insights into mudcake growth and suggests ways to ensure optimal formation.”The mudcake forms as a filtrate, similar to ground coffee in a French press, at the interface between the well and the rock,” says Liu. Citation: Smart mud to smooth the way for drilling wells (2018, October 2) retrieved 17 July 2019 from The behavior of drilling muds within wells is highly complex, and their efficacy depends on many factors within the mud itself and in the surrounding rock. Credit: Qi Liu & Carlos Santamarina Provided by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology A model that simulates how drilling fluids, or muds, behave and influence the stability of oil wells has been developed by KAUST researchers. Their findings could inform new safety protocols and the design of novel drilling muds.last_img read more


Uber settles Dutch probe for 23 mn euros

first_img © 2019 AFP US ride-hailing giant Uber is to pay more than 2.3 million euros to settle a Dutch criminal probe into the breach of local taxi laws, prosecutors said Friday. The Netherlands settlement is the latest in a series around the world which has forced the company to shell out millions over regulatory breaches.Dutch prosecutors opened an investigation in 2015 into UberPop, a service that linked amateur drivers with customers through a smartphone application, after a local court ruling banned the scheme. Uber pulled the plug on UberPop in the Netherlands later that year in favour of other Uber services that use professional drivers.”Uber has agreed to a settlement of 2.33 million euros ($2.5 million),” the Dutch public prosecution service said.The sum consisted of a fine of 2.025 million to be paid by Uber and its subsidiaries “and criminal gains of 309,409 euros,” it added in a statement.”Uber was providing an app for transport services whereby no taxi licence was demanded from the drivers, even though such a licence is a legal obligation,” prosecutors said, adding that it also created unfair competition.In the Netherlands, taxi licences are only granted under strict conditions after drivers undergo approved training and submit a medical certificate, and vehicles must also have an on-board computer to check driving and rest times.The prosecution service said it saw the “payment of the out-of-court settlement as an appropriate settlement,” adding that Uber “will now and in future conform to Dutch legislation”.Last November the Netherlands and Britain fined Uber more than one million euros for hiding a huge data breach for more than a year.Hackers compromised customers’ personal data from some 57 million riders and drivers worldwide in 2016, but Uber kept it secret until a year later.Uber also paid $148 million to US authorities to avoid a potentially embarrassing court case over the breach.In another blow to Uber, the EU’s top court last year backed the right of France and other member states to ban UberPop without having to notify Brussels regulators.The Silicon Valley firm has been left with its UberX and other services, which uses licensed professionals in France, Spain, the Netherlands and other European Union countries.Uber, in a statement sent to AFP said it has learnt from its mistakes and “changed the way we do business across the world.” The company said that since shutting down UberPop in 2015 “we only allow professional and certified drivers on the app” as well as having fully licensed its operations to comply with Dutch legislation. Dutch appeals court upholds ban on former Dutch Uber service Explore furthercenter_img Uber settlement with the Netherlands is the latest in a series around the world which has seen the US ride-hailing giant shell out millions over regulatory breaches Citation: Uber settles Dutch probe for 2.3 mn euros (2019, March 8) retrieved 17 July 2019 from This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.last_img read more


EE industry – the golden goose of Malaysia

first_img Economy 08 Jul 2019 S&P’s rating demonstrates confidence in Malaysia’s economic outlook It is not sheer coincidence that Malaysia stands as the seventh largest E&E exporter in the world today. As a gateway to trade, the E&E industry continues to be a key driver of industrial development and contributes significantly to GDP growth, export earnings, investment and employment. In short, Malaysia’s rapid industrialisation and high ranking among the top group of trading nations in the world were mainly contributed by this industry.The E&E industry remains the leading segment in the manufacturing sector which produces semiconductors, electronic equipment for industries and electronic products for customers worldwide.Last year, this industry contributed 38% of the total exports with a trade surplus of RM119bil, which marked the highest among all the sub-sectors for the manufacturing sector. The trade surplus has entered into the 253rd consecutive month since the Asian financial crisis, due to export-orientedness of E&E, as measured by the more than 45% contribution to the overall manufacturing exports.The almost RM120bil surplus level in the E&E industry equals the total overall trade surplus for 2018!Not only does this reflect that the E&E industry is the only sub-sector in the manufacturing sector that has a trade surplus, it also shows clearly that without the industry’s contribution, Malaysia would register a trade deficit. Worse still, it could also lead to a current account deficit that does not augur well for Malaysia’s sovereign ratings.Here is where the crucial question arises. Can the economy power ahead without the contribution of E&E? Certainly not, based on the successful growth of the ecosystem that has been in place, one which multinational corporations (MNCs) played a crucial role.The MNCs kept pace by reinvesting in the state-of-the-art technology, and made the manufacturing and its processes much more productive, with added automation and computing power. Hence, the manufacturing processes deal with the intricacies of the high-end technology from micro to nano, and the testing of such complex products.Semiconductors will continue to spearhead the growth of the industry on the back of demand in the usage of mobile devices, storage devices, opto-electronics, embedded technology, data analytics, artificial intelligence and 5G.With the government’s push, E&E emerged as a strategic industry, which led to a wave of investments and a reversal in the unemployment level, not to mention multiplier effects. In a recent study on the electronics industry by Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman, it was reported that in 2017, the added value at constant price was RM67.75bil and the employment was at 485,000. In 2015, the output multiplier for the electronic sector was ranked at 2/36.This industry started in 1972 from labour-intensive semiconductor assembly to test manufacturing and diversified into storage, LEDs, solar, contract manufacturing, medical devices, industrial electronics, avionics, front-end fab as well as design and developments, especially in both integrated circuits (ICs) and embedded system designs. As the E&E industry grow and diversify, it has also developed clusters of SMEs and large local companies in precision machining, equipment development and assembly, and automation. Many of such companies are doing business globally and many are also listed on Bursa Malaysia. Thanks to the Industrial Trade and Industry Ministry and Malaysian Investment Development Authority for their positive roles and efforts.That Malaysia gained recognition as one of the choicest industry cluster locations in the world has been a clear reflection of the comparative advantage Malaysia held over the neighbouring countries, in terms of its part in global E&E.After 40 years in the country, policymakers must now rethink how best to enable these companies with strong policy advocacy and to encourage them to continue to invest in the country, especially in the face of stiff competition as well as the current data-centric phase for ICs. Topping the urgent priority list is Malaysia’s lack of follow-up strategy to boost the competitiveness of the E&E and policies have not kept up with the rapid changes.Most of the time the government looks at an industry from value-added contributions, which is output minus input. The higher the number, the higher the added value. However, in the E&E industry, the supply chain is global and not just local, which is why it is said, “the world is flat” as the components and input materials are not necessarily from the country producing the product. There are also numerous dimensions in assessing the value of an industry and of all these, talent development is notably the most significant.For example, in the semiconductor industry, the technology evolves from micro to nano technology. For each improvement in technology, new advanced machines are needed and the workforce needs to be re-trained to handle such complex equipment and manufacturing processes. The same can be said of other E&E sub-sectors when new technology is introduced.Malaysia can proudly attest that as new manufacturing processes are continually developed, we have engineers capable of handling this development, not to mention the homegrown leaders to run the relevant operations.Malaysians have shown that they are now capable of managing regional or global operations from Malaysia as well as global supply chains including price negotiations with vendors around the world. Other high paying jobs include managing global logistics hubs, regional and global shared services in finance, IT and human capital. How much value does one put into new technology, talent development, global leadership skills, complexities of operations and design and developments especially since Malaysians have shown that they have the capabilities to learn and manage such challenges.We have done extremely well in the past. Penang, for instance, is testimony of global recognition as one of the top 10 dynamic industrial cluster locations in the world, thanks to its strong and efficient supply chain with world-class capabilities and proven track record.Not only was there a network of over 3,000 well diversified and competent local suppliers, but soon came along to local electronic manufacturing service companies which are into wafer processing, package assembly, RF final testing, design and manufacture of equipment and devices for the semiconductor and electronics packaging industries.Despite having some of the top techno manufacturing companies on the Malaysian shores for the past four decades, we have sadly fallen behind the curve in terms of design and development (D&D) and innovations. These areas could have otherwise pushed us up the value chain.As the backbone of the manufacturing sector, the E&E industry needs to turn to a fresh page so as to draw more foreign attention to this significant cluster.Can Malaysia afford to lose ground in this industry? Is what we have achieved thus far, good enough? What is the new narrative to propel the E&E industry to new heights and to be recognised as a leading E&E centre of the world?Datuk Seri Wong Siew Hai is the E&E Productivity Nexus Champion for the Malaysia Productivity Corp. The views expressed here are solely the opinion of the writer. Nation 07 Jul 2019 S&P’s rating demonstrates confidence in Malaysia’s economic outlook, says Guan Eng {{category}} {{time}} {{title}} IT is not business as usual in the electrical and electronics (E&E) industry in Malaysia.The buoyant E&E industry has been the mainstay and strength of the manufacturing sector and economy, with enhanced export competitiveness over the past four decades. It is currently facing challenging times, both on the domestic and external fronts.Some of that robust momentum has been lost. Misperceptions of the expected role of the E&E industry in a developed Malaysian economy have surfaced among policymakers while Malaysia’s global place as the preferred E&E investment destination now stands at odds. center_img Comics 24h ago Kee’s World – July 13, 2019 – Related News Related Newslast_img read more


Weather plays truant in Bihar Rain or shine its Sec 144

first_img Rohit Kumar Singh PatnaJuly 12, 2019UPDATED: July 12, 2019 18:50 IST File | PTIHIGHLIGHTSBihar government has imposed Sec 144 in MotihariThe order has been given to avoid rain-related incidentsIMD has predicted very heavy rainfall in parts of Bihar on FridayIt was only one month ago that the administration was forced to impose Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) in many parts of Bihar including Gaya, Begusarai and Darbhanga. The reason, as you may think, was not violence or a security threat. The restriction was imposed due to the heatwave. Now a month later, the administration has imposed Section 144 again – this time in Motihari, due to heavy rains.The prohibitory orders were imposed on Friday. The administration has also asked all the schools to remain shut for two days. This is the first time that Section 144 has been imposed because of rain.Earlier in June, Section 144 was imposed in six districts of the state — Gaya, Begusarai, Darbhanga, Gopalganj, Madhubani and Sitamarhi. People were ordered not to step out of their houses between 11 am to 4 pm. The severe heatwave had claimed over 100 lives in Bihar in one month.Monsoon has hit several states and India received 28 per cent more rainfall than the 50-year average in the week to July 10, data from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) showed. Parts of northern and eastern India received heavy showers, while in the northeastern state of Assam three persons were killed in rain and flood-related incidents and over 2 lakh people across 11 districts have been affected by the deluge.Incessant rainfall for the past five days has triggered flash floods and landslides in several places in Meghalaya, causing damage to infrastructure and crippling normal life. Heavy rains had also slowed down Mumbai city.Meanwhile, New Delhi had overcast conditions and the weather department has predicted only very light rains during the next two to three days.The India Meteorological Department has said the states such as Uttarakhand, East Uttar Pradesh, Bihar are likely to witness heavy rainfall on Friday.(With agency inputs)Read | IMD predicts heavy rainfall in Sikkim, Assam and Bihar todayRead | 162 children died of encephalitis in Bihar, 63 in seven other states: GovtWatch | Supreme Court expresses anguish over rising encephalitis death tollFor the latest World Cup news, live scores and fixtures for World Cup 2019, log on to Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for World Cup news, scores and updates.Get real-time alerts and all the news on your phone with the all-new India Today app. Download from Post your comment Do You Like This Story? Awesome! Now share the story Too bad. Tell us what you didn’t like in the comments Posted byArshi Aggarwal Weather plays truant in Bihar: Rain or shine it’s Sec 144The prohibitory orders were imposed on Friday. The administration has also asked all the schools to remain shut for two days. This is the first time that Section 144 has been imposed because of rain.advertisement Nextlast_img read more