FX: Travellers, stakeholders groan over BTA/PTA cut
…Policy will make travel more expensive – NANTA
From Abdullateef Aliyu, Lagos
Media Trust Limited
Travellers and travel stakeholders have expressed mixed feelings over the reduction of Basic Travelling Allowance and Personal Travel Allowance (BTA/PTA) to $2000 from $4000. The development which took effect immediately is said to have disrupted the travel plans of some travellers amidst pressure at the black market. With the new policy, Form A made for foreign currency requests processed by an intending traveller only provides a maximum of $2000 as BTA/ PTA. Checks by our correspondents at the bureau de change (BDC) markets in Lagos indicated that a dollar is sold for N752. At the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) in Lagos, it went as high as N756 to a dollar as commercial banks comply with the new directive. A traveller who spoke with our correspondent yesterday said, “This means after you wait for weeks, you are only entitled to $2000 and wait for another six months to apply for another $2000. For instance, I am embarking on a trip to Cairo for two weeks. How will I cope with $2000, that is if you have access to that because the best thing is to go to the black markets if you cannot wait.” A BDC Operator, Nasiru Gidado said the BTA or PTA is not even accessible easily, noting that many travellers would have to go through the black market. “But we are also under pressure as BDC Operators. Most people are coming here to buy but the truth is we don’t have dollars. I know the $4000 they used to give is hardly enough. Now that it has been reduced to $2000, how do you want people to cope?” he asked. Another BDC operator at MMIA who identified himself as Hassan, said “The truth is that CBN itself doesn’t have dollars and the commercial banks are giving out the little they have on a preferential basis. They have those they are prioritizing. “For instance, CBN has not supplied the BDCs any dollar in the last one year because they don’t have, yet we pay N250, 000 every year as license renewal fee. So, there would be pressure here at the black markets.” Policy will make travel more expensive – NANTA President of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA), Mrs. Susan Akporiaye, said the policy would make travel more difficult and expensive. “This will just make travel more difficult and more expensive because obviously $2000 is not going to do anything. It will make people go and buy at black market because that $2000 will not be enough for anything except somebody who is just going for one official three-day trip. “Now, you have to go and source for another $2000 outside, which adds to the expenses on travel. That is the downside.” She said many travellers have been grumbling over the policy but there is nothing the travel agencies can do. Also affected were intending Umrah pilgrims who would now have access to only $2000 instead of $4000. Speaking with our correspondent, Vice-President of the Association Hajj and Umrah Operators of Nigeria (AHUON), Alhaji Qasim Alabi, said those intending to perform Umrah might not be extremely hit except those involved in trading and they would need the extra dollars in the Kingdom. Also speaking, Director of Strategy and Research, Zenith Travels, Mr. Olumide Ohunayo, said the only way to save the naira is to abolish the multiple exchange rates currently in operation, noting that the BTA/ PTA is not even available to many travellers. “Many people don’t get till the time they are supposed to travel. It is so bad,” he said.