What is your New Year’s resolution for 2019? A New Year’s resolution today is understood as a promise to oneself focused on self-improvement in various areas.
People pledge to turn over a new leaf by being fitter, more productive and generally better versions of themselves. While recent research shows that as many as 45 per cent of citizens make New Year’s resolutions, only about eight per cent are successful in achieving their goals, which is hardly surprising as they are only accountable to themselves.
Nevertheless, this dismal record is not about to stop people making resolutions any time soon; after all we have had about 4,000 years of practice!
Historians believe that the ancient Babylonians were the first people to make New Year’s resolutions 4,000 years ago.
It is also on record that they were the first to hold celebrations in honour of the new year which for them began not in January but in mid-March, when the crops were planted.
Beginning with a 12-day religious festival known as Akitu, the Babylonians crowned a new king or renewed their loyalty to the sitting ruler. At this time, they also pledged to pay debts and return borrowed goods to keep in good standing with their gods whom they expected would reward them with a good harvest in return.
A similar practice took place in ancient Rome as early as 300 BC. However, Julius Caesar declared January 1 the beginning of the year around 46 BC.
The month was named after the god Janus, who had two faces and whose spirit inhabited doorways and arches.
The Romans believed he was symbolically looking into both the past and the future and wielded such power that they made sacrifices with promises to be good during the year ahead.
Then came the Christians who saw the new year as a chance to reflect on past mistakes, vowing to change their bad behaviour.
In 1740, John Wesley, founder of Methodism, created the Covenant Renewal Service on December 31/January 1 also known as the “night watch”, to counteract the parties and over-indulgencies of the citizenry.
This celebration included scripture reading, hymn singing and served as a spiritual alternative to the raucous parties normally held to welcome the new year.
These religious rituals found their way into secular traditions over time. Faith and rituals call to forces beyond our control or understanding that influence us in a magical way.
Midnight itself has magical connotations in almost every religious tradition, which would explain why we countdown to midnight on New Year’s Eve.
Notwithstanding the modern intent of these ancient traditions, businesses have been profiting from resolutions for decades; those that fail that is.
For example, one of the most popular resolutions is to get fit which explains the spike in gym memberships in January.
As most resolutions are broken within the first month, more than 50 per cent of those memberships go unused.
Looking back at the ancient traditions of both the Babylonians and the Romans, it is clear that individuals made pledges of self-improvement not just to themselves but to their rulers and gods to whom they were therefore accountable.
It was also well understood that there were consequences in the event that citizens did not honour their pledges, such as crop failure. Maybe not so well documented but there is also evidence of rituals of penance and re-dedication to our traditional African gods. I am reminded of my headmaster at Alliance High School, L.J. Campbell, who during a Saturday morning talk in 1969, quoting John F. Kennedy’s famous words “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” implored us to apply the same principle at our school.
Kenya is caught up in the web of corruption and its attendant vices. The government has embarked on a major exercise to wrestle the dragon of corruption through State organs but this can only succeed if citizens, in tandem, commit to turn over a new leaf as in ancient times.
I particularly like the ancient pledge to repay debts and return borrowed (in our case, stolen) goods to keep in good standing with the State and the gods.
Our pledges for self-improvement need to start with our family, our community, our country and our God, to all of whom we must be accountable. Too many of us sit back and expect other people to bring about change as we continue to point fingers.
What is your personal pledge this new year to your country? You are the lowest common denominator!
World Bank pushes G-20 to extend debt relief to 2021
World Bank Group President David Malpass has urged the Group of 20 rich countries to extend the time frame of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative(DSSI) through the end of 2021, calling it one of the key factors in strengthening global recovery.
“I urge you to extend the time frame of the DSSI through the end of 2021 and commit to giving the initiative as broad a scope as possible,” said Malpass.
He made these remarks at last week’s virtual G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting.
The World Bank Chief said the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the deepest global recession in decades and what may turn out to be one of the most unequal in terms of impact.
People in developing countries are particularly hard hit by capital outflows, declines in remittances, the collapse of informal labor markets, and social safety nets that are much less robust than in the advanced economies.
For the poorest countries, poverty is rising rapidly, median incomes are falling and growth is deeply negative.
Debt burdens, already unsustainable for many countries, are rising to crisis levels.
“The situation in developing countries is increasingly desperate. Time is short. We need to take action quickly on debt suspension, debt reduction, debt resolution mechanisms and debt transparency,” said Malpass.
Kenya’s Central Bank Drafts New Laws to Regulate Non-Bank Digital Loans
The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) will regulate interest rates charged on mobile loans by digital lending platforms if amendments on the Central bank of Kenya Act pass to law. The amendments will require digital lenders to seek approval from CBK before launching new products or changing interest rates on loans among other charges, just like commercial banks.
“The principal objective of this bill is to amend the Central bank of Kenya Act to regulate the conduct of providers of digital financial products and services,” reads a notice on the bill. “CBK will have an obligation of ensuring that there is fair and non-discriminatory marketplace access to credit.”
According to Business Daily, the legislation will also enable the Central Bank to monitor non-performing loans, capping the limit at not twice the amount of the defaulted loan while protecting consumers from predatory lending by digital loan platforms.
Tighter Reins on Platforms for Mobile Loans
The legislation will boost efforts to protect customers, building upon a previous gazette notice that blocked lenders from blacklisting non-performing loans below Ksh 1000. The CBK also withdrew submissions of unregulated mobile loan platforms into Credit Reference Bureau. The withdrawal came after complaints of misuse over data in the Credit Information Sharing (CIS) System available for lenders.
Last year, Kenya had over 49 platforms providing mobile loans, taking advantage of regulation gaps to charge obscene rates as high as 150% a year. While most platforms allow borrowers to prepay within a month, creditors still pay the full amount plus interest.
Amendments in the CBK Act will help shield consumers from high-interest rates as well as offer transparency on terms of digital loans.
Scope Markets Kenya customers to have instant access to global financial markets
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 20 – Clients trading through the Scope Markets Kenya trading platform will get instant access to global financial markets and wider investment options.
This follows the launch of a new Scope Markets app, available on both the Google PlayStore and IOS Apple Store.
The Scope Markets app offers clients over 500 investment opportunities across global financial markets.
The Scope Markets app has a brand new user interface that is very user friendly, following feedback from customers.
The application offers real-time quotes; newsfeeds; research facilities, and a chat feature which enables a customer to make direct contact with the Customer Service Team during trading days (Monday to Friday).
The platform also offers an enhanced client interface including catering for those who trade at night.
The client will get instant access to several asset classes in the global financial markets including; Single Stocks CFDs (US, UK, EU) such as Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google, BP, Carrefour; Indices (Nasdaq, FTSE UK), Metals (Gold, Silver); Currencies (60+ Pairs), Commodities (Oil, Natural Gas).
The launch is part of Scope Markets Kenya strategy of enriching the customer experience while offering clients access to global trading opportunities.
Scope Markets Kenya CEO, Kevin Ng’ang’a observed, “the Sope Markets app is very easy to use especially when executing trades. Customers are at the heart of everything we do. We designed the Scope Markets app with the customer experience in mind as we seek to respond to feedback from our customers.”
He added that enhancing the client experience builds upon the robust trading platform, Meta Trader 5, unveiled in 2019, enabling Scope Markets Kenya to broaden the asset classes available on the trading platform.