Describing it as ‘killing’ for Small and Medium-scale Enterprises (SMEs) and the economy in general, experts, alongside foremost economist, Pat Utomi, have lent a voice to critiquing the recent restriction placed on foreign exchange on food import by the Federal Government.
Speaking at the fourth edition of the annual Regulatory Conversation with the theme: “Foreign Exchange Restrictions on Food Imports and Implications for Regulating and Growing the Nigerian Economy”, held in Lagos recently, Utomi said, “The policy is killing business and, in deed, the economy. The fundamental principle of international trade is comparative advantage. Nobody can produce everything he wants. When you produce and exchange with someone else who produces something else, you will prosper. What drives prosperity in a nation is production, not revenues. We need to start compelling people in power to make policies that would be in our collective interest.”
In his reaction, the CEO, Integrity Organisation/Convention on Business Integrity, Soji Apampa, who spoke on “Forex Restrictions on Milk Imports: A perspective on the Debate”, called on government to prevail on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) over such ‘unfriendly’ policies inimical to the growth of SMEs.
“The regulatory Action by CBN restricts access to $1.2billion forex for dairy products. It is time to consider a different value-proposition. What we need is a government that catalyses change through its policy directives around holistic development of our economies such as agriculture, water resources, extension and technology. “We need to produce a business environment that allows growth and profits whilst channeling the might of business to solving social impacts at scale and not by orders and manipulations of the CBN to take on unsustainable businesses. We need inclusive business models that improve access to good quality products by the poor; includes the poor as producers earning higher incomes,” Apampa said.
Among the regulators present at the event were Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and Consumer Protection Council (CPC) who harped on the need to improve production and encourage competitiveness.
Moderating the panel of discussants was the Chairman of Proshare, Olufemi Awoyemi, at an event co-sponsored by Integrity Organisation, UK Aid, Action Aid, The Economic Summit Group, Proshare and the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry.