Recently, the Federal Government through the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, told members of the organised private sector of Nigeria at a meeting in Abuja that the announcement of a series of stimulus packages, including a N50 billion survival funds for Micro Small and Medium scale Enterprises (MSME) and a N15 billion Guaranteed Uptake Scheme was meant to save 500,000 jobs post- COVID-19. Taiwo Hassan reports
Indeed, COVID-19 has created severe economic consequences for all countries around the world with Nigeria also badly hit. In addition, the aftermath of the lockdowns has also not helped matters, with frozen economic activities, causing massive job losses and supply chain disruptions in key sectors of the economy.
It has also depressed the demand for crude oil and precipitated an unprecedented oil price crash. In fact, Nigeria’s dependence on oil for revenue and foreign exchange makes it particularly vulnerable in this situation. No doubt, the country is currently faced with perhaps the most challenging economic downturn in its history just as the global economy is also confronting its sharpest reversal in a generation. With every country dealing with varying degrees of the same problem, there are few places to turn for help.
For Nigeria, this is a multilayered quandary: a health crisis, near total shut- down of economic activities, capital flow reversals and a fast-increasing unemployment rate, fuelled by layoffs in almost all sectors of the economy. Alarmed by these unprecedented colossal challenges in the country’s economy, the Federal Government decided to develope a stimulus package expected to cushion its suffering in local businesses and also re-jig the fragile economy.
However, since the Federal Government has chosen manufacturing and agribusiness sectors of the economy to champion the revitalisation and rebound the economy, the need to support the sectors, especially manufacturing with stimulus fund became imperative in the event of the COVID-19 crisis.
Speaking with members of the OPSN at a virtual meeting in Abuja, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, disclosed plans on repositioning the country’s fragile economy, saying that government was committed to supporting their businesses with funds to assist them ease challenges orchestrated by the pandemic. Adebayo assured the OPSN of his ministry’s support in the bid to boost the economy post-COVID-19 with the N65 billion stimulus package meant to mitigate challenges in businesses.
Particularly, the minister told the members of the group made up of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), Nigerian Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASME) and Nigerian Association of Small Scale Industrialists (NASSI) that his ministry would work closely with the private sector as the Federal Government works to reboot the economy in the face of the pandemic.
Adebayo affirmed that the private sector had an important role to play in the bid to restart the economy and assured the OPSN of his readiness,and that of his ministry, to work closely with the private sector in this regard. The minister announced that a series of stimulus packages would be made available soon to assist operators in the private sector. These include a N50 billion survival funds for MSME; and a N15 billion Guaranteed Uptake Scheme to save 500,000 jobs.
The meeting was attended by the President of NACCIMA, who is also the current president of the OPSN, Hajiya Saratu Iya Aliyu; the President of MAN, Engr. Ahmed Mansur; President of NECA, Taiwo Adeniyi; and the President of NASME, Sir. Orimadegun Agboade. The virtual meeting also discussed and agreed that the implementation of project and programmes under the Economy Sustainability Plan (ESP), which was recently approved by National Executive Council, would be in close cooperation with members of the OPSN. In her earlier statement, Iya Aliyu called for closer ties between the OPSN and the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, especially as the country struggles to save and reboot the economy. She said that present situation truly presented an opportunity to diversify the economy and make it more selfreliant, and that steps must be taken towards that goal. Other issues discussed at the meeting were Maritime Port Reforms, Appropriate Gas pricing, Special Economic Zones and Industrial Clusters, as well as stable and regular power supply.
Economic Sustainability Plan
Speaking on the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) of the Federal Government, the President of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Mrs. Toki Mabogunje, explained that the stimulus fund was a good move by government towards sustainable growth of the real sector of the economy. The LCCI president enjoined the government to pursue the implementation of the ESP with utmost commitment and strong political will devoid of sentiments or political affiliations, so that proposed initiatives in the plan can produce the desired outcomes. According to her, as a concerned stakeholder in the Nigerian economy, she urged the federal and state government to engage with the organised private sector where and when necessary, to ensure the economic sustainability plan achieve the desired outcomes that would ultimately translate to improved living standards for the Nigerian citizenry. Her words: “We commend the Economic Sustainability Plan of the federal government aimed at ensuring that the economy recovers quickly from the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and continues on a growth path sustainably. We recognize that the ESP as submitted by the committee seeks to foster new ways of working, producing, learning, and managing public health and safety in the years to come. This includes building resilience across critical sectors, including aviation, education, healthcare, internal security, mining, water, and sanitation.”
No doubt, the N65 billion stimulus fund for the manufacturing sector is expected to go a long way to reposition the sector to salvage job losses and other challenges.