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African press review 12 June 2013

Johannesburg's stock exchange is jumpy, while Nairobi's is happy. "Experts" oppose job security for temporary workers. Kenyan MPs lose their battle for big salaries but get a new car in return. And an EU representative lays into Museveni.

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There's trouble at the Johannesburg stock exchange.

According to the front page of this morning's South African financial paper, BusinessDay, the Johannesburg exchange suffered its biggest one-day loss in 20 months on Tuesday with both equities and bonds taking big hits.

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Most analysts suggests that the markets are reacting to recent strong US economic statistics and the possibility of an interest rate increase by the Federal Reserve.

On the labour front, BusinessDay's main story is headlined "Equality for temporary workers ‘fatal to job creation’."

The article claims that labour experts have slammed amendments to the Labour Relations Amendment Bill that will force employers to treat temporary, fixed-contract and part-time workers on an equal basis after three months, saying these would sound the death knell to South Africa’s job creation ambitions.

The amendments, introduced on Tuesday by a parliamentary committee, also created the risk that, instead of workers’ wages and benefits rising as intended, they would decline, as employers lower standards throughout the labour force.

The same experts predict massive job losses as business outsource, relocate, automate, mechanise and cut worker numbers to avoid the additional costs.

In Kenya the main story in the Standard is headlined "MPs lose their fight over pay".

The article explains that parliament yesterday agreed to accept the wage levels set by the salaries commission, ending three months of agitation that set them against the president, the courts, the public and the media.

The 416 MPs   349 members of the National Assembly and 67 Senators   will be paid a taxable 4,600 euros monthly salary. This amount will rise by 400 euros every year, increasing an MP’s salary to 6,200 euros by the fifth year.

But, in exchange for dropping demands for 7,500 euros per month, the amount paid to members of the last Parliament, MPs secured new benefits.

Each MP will get a grant of five million shillings to purchase a new car. They will also retain their contributory pensions scheme in which the government tops up members’ contributions. Both of these benefits had been abolished by the salaries commission.

The MPs have asked for a special review from the commission to benchmark their pay with other parliaments in the Commonwealth.

The average annual salary in Kenya is 1,300 euros.

Regional paper the East African reports that the value of shares traded on the Nairobi stock exchange in May hit a high of nearly 150 million euros, the highest level in more than 30 months.

On a less positive note, the East African points out that power companies in the region are recording rising losses, while a mix of government directives and expensive thermal power is quickly worsening their financial positions.

Overall, losses in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania are way above the global average of 10 per cent, a situation that has left the power companies Kenya Power, Umeme and Tanesco, grappling with spiralling operating costs that are passed on to consumers, making power more expensive in the region.

According to the Daily Monitor in Uganda, the European Union yesterday punched holes in President Yoweri Museveni’s state-of-the-nation address delivered last Thursday.

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Ambassador Roberto Ridolfi, the head of the EU Delegation in Uganda, said it was “a pity” that the address - a head of state’s most comprehensive accounting to citizens for government’s action and inaction over the previous year - did not cover the Sejusa affair, the fight against corruption, or the closure of the media houses.

The Sejusa affair is the alleged plot to assassinate government and military elements opposed to a transfer of the presidency from Yoweri Museveni to his eldest son, Muhozi Kainerugaba. When the Monitor and the Red Pepper tabloid published details of the affair last month, the two papers were effectively shut down by the police for 11 days.

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