UK finance minister says BoE governor to stay on as Brexit turbulence looms

In this file photo taken on June 27, 2018 Bank of England Governor Mark Carney attends the Bank of England's financial stability report at the Bank of England in central London. Mark Carney will remain Bank of England chief until January 2020 to steer the UK economy through possibly "quite a turbulent period" post-Brexit, finance minister Philip Hammond announced on September 11, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 11 September 2018
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UK finance minister says BoE governor to stay on as Brexit turbulence looms

LONDON: Mark Carney will stay on as Bank of England governor until the end of January 2020 to help navigate the turbulence of Brexit, Britain's finance minister said on Tuesday, as he warned time was running out to secure a deal with the EU on future ties.
The United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union on March 29, but no agreement has been reached on the terms of its exit. Rivals to Prime Minister Theresa May are circling and some lawmakers are pushing for a rerun of the 2016 referendum.
Finance minister Philip Hammond said the government was devoting all its efforts to securing a deal on a new relationship with the EU. Carney's continued presence at the central bank will help Britain negotiate the aftermath, he said.
"I have been discussing with the governor his ability to be able to serve a little longer in post in order to ensure continuity through what could be quite a turbulent period for our economy in the early summer of 2019," Hammond said.
Carney, a former Goldman Sachs banker, has run the Bank of England since 2013. He gained respect from investors for his handling of the effects of the 2016 Brexit vote.
Since the shock vote to leave, companies have spent millions of pounds to prepare for Brexit. Many chief executives fear Britain could still leave without a deal, a scenario they warn would spook financial markets and silt up the arteries of trade.
Sterling, which tumbled after the 2016 vote, has recently been moving sharply on Brexit news. It reached its highest level since early August on Tuesday amid increased hopes for a deal, but then gave up its gains to stand at $1.3002.
As May tries to clinch a deal with Brussels, she is facing rebels in her Conservative Party who say they will vote down any deal that fails to deliver a sharp break with the EU.
Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, said on Monday that a Brexit deal was possible "within six or eight weeks" if negotiators were realistic in their demands.

BREXIT DEAL?
Hammond warned that time was running out.
"We are working against the clock, we understand that," Hammond told parliament. "We will be working flat out over the coming weeks and months to achieve (a deal)."
May's spokesman said she saw an informal EU summit in the Austrian city of Salzburg next week as a "staging post" in Brexit negotiations that would allow EU leaders to discuss her proposals for the first time.
But business chiefs are worried.
The wrong Brexit deal could cost tens of thousands of jobs in the British car industry, the boss of Jaguar Land Rover said, adding he had no idea whether his plants would be able to operate in Britain after March 29.
"Currently I do not even know if any of our manufacturing facilities in the UK will be able to function on the 30th," Ralf Speth said.
He added that the company would not be able to build cars if customs checks meant that the motorway to and from the southern English port of Dover, which is used to transport components, becomes a "car park" due to snarl-ups.
Under May's proposals, Britain will seek a free-trade area for goods with the EU and accept a "common rulebook" for goods. Rebels say that will keep the UK under the EU's sway for years.
At a presentation by economists who favour Britain's leaving without a deal, Conservative lawmakers who support Brexit warned that May would have to ensure Britain was independent of the EU after Brexit.
Any joint EU-UK political statement, lawmaker Steve Baker said, would have to "point towards an advanced free-trade agreement which leaves us as an independent country".
Boris Johnson, May's former foreign minister and a leading Brexit-supporting rebel, said Britain should not accept EU single market legislation.


Hajj now ‘more affordable’ for Muslim Filipinos

Updated 23 February 2019
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Hajj now ‘more affordable’ for Muslim Filipinos

  • Steps taken by the Philippine government have resulted in an “unprecedented” reduction in Hajj fees and better accommodation for Filipino pilgrims
  • The reduced fees come with the entry of a third airline that will transport Filipino Hajj pilgrims, after the Kingdom agreed to waive its two-airline policy for the Philippines

MANILA: The annual Hajj pilgrimage is now “more affordable” for Muslim Filipinos thanks to reforms instituted by the Philippines’ National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) and successful talks with Saudi Arabia, said NCMF Secretary Saidamen Pangarungan.
Steps taken by the Philippine government have resulted in an “unprecedented” reduction in Hajj fees and better accommodation for Filipino pilgrims, he added.
In an advisory released earlier this month, the NCMF announced that starting this year, “there will be changes for the benefit of all intending pilgrims in the annual Hajj or pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.”
Among these changes is the assurance that Filipino pilgrims will only be accommodated in four- and five-star hotels in Madinah and Makkah, with adequate shuttle services to and from the places of Hajj rituals.
“Everyone is assured that the past experience of substandard hotel accommodations for Filipinos will never be experienced again,” said Pangarungan, who will serve as official head of the Philippine pilgrims’ delegation this year.
The reduced fees come with the entry of a third airline that will transport Filipino Hajj pilgrims, after the Kingdom agreed to waive its two-airline policy for the Philippines.
“Historically, only … Saudia Airlines and Philippine Airlines (PAL) were allowed as transportation of Filipino pilgrims,” said Pangarungan.
In January, he and other NCMF officials traveled to Saudi Arabia and met with Deputy Minister for Hajj and Umrah Dr. Sharief Housnie.
During the meeting, Pangarungan explained the financial limitations of Muslim Filipinos, and negotiated for the landing rights of another airline that will shuttle pilgrims from the Philippines. The Saudi government heeded the request.
Pangarungan said the airfare rates of the third airline, Oman Air, is significantly lower than both Saudia and PAL.
So if a pilgrim chooses to fly with Oman Air, the total Hajj fee will be 166,786 Philippine pesos ($3,204), compared with 197,000 pesos last year. Should a pilgrim choose Saudia, the total fee will be 185,336 pesos.
Also at the meeting, the NCMF got assurances that Filipino pilgrims would only be accommodated in four- or five-star hotels. This year, Saudi Arabia has allocated a quota of 8,000 Hajj visas for Filipino pilgrims.
Ebra Moxsir, president of the Imam Council of the Philippines (ICP), welcomed the changes, saying they will allow more Filipino Muslims to perform Hajj.
“We can’t expect everyone to be satisfied with these changes, but it’s still good news,” Moxsir told Arab News. “If you’re a Muslim who has the financial capability, it’s mandatory to perform Hajj even once in your life.”
Journalist Ali Macabalang, who has gone to Makkah twice to cover Hajj, said in the past, due to schemes by “some unscrupulous officials and individuals,” Filipino pilgrims had to pay more.
“While collected funds were enough to put them in good hotels, our pilgrims would end up in crowded dormitories … One room that could accommodate four people would have eight to 12 occupants,” Macabalang said.
“Each of the pilgrims paid for separate rooms … but they end up in cramped dormitories … So it’s really a welcome development what the present leadership is introducing this year.”
Huma Ahmad, who was among Filipino pilgrims last year, said the reduced fees are “good news for those who’ll join the Hajj this year. Hopefully it’ll be a success for all pilgrims.”
Of the estimated 10 million Muslims in the Philippines, on average 7,000 join the pilgrimage each year. Macabalang said the new changes will enable more fellow Muslim Filipinos to perform Hajj.
Some Filipino pilgrims even sell their property to raise funds to perform the pilgrimage, he added.
“It’s unfortunate that some unscrupulous individuals were using it (Hajj) to take advantage of the pilgrims,” he said.
Philippine pilgrims were almost barred from this year’s pilgrimage due to an NCMF debt of 11 million pesos owed to a Saudi tourism company that handled Hajj-related activities for Filipino pilgrims in 2017 and 2018.
Dimapuno Alonto Datu Ramos Jr., director of the NCMF bureau of external relations, said: “This debt, if it remained unpaid, would’ve been enough grounds to block all Philippine pilgrims from joining the Hajj.”
Pangarungan, who became NCMF secretary in July last year, immediately called for an investigation upon learning of the issue, said Ramos Jr.
He added that Pangarungan ordered that the amount be settled so it would not affect those joining the pilgrimage in August.
“If the final report will prove that there’s sufficient evidence of corruption, a case will be filed at the ombudsman,” Ramos Jr. said, adding that initial reports from the investigation indicate that funds were mismanaged by some NCMF officials.
Relations between the Philippines and Saudi Arabia stretch back almost five decades, with total trade of around $1.25 billion in 2017. The Kingdom hosts almost a million Filipino workers.