From Uche Usim, Abuja
AS Nigeria battles economic recession, the Federal Government has outlined a 10-point fiscal roadmap to reset the nation’s economy to the path of growth.
Speaking at the Annual Dinner of Lagos Business School (LBS), Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who was represented by Finance Minister, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun itemised fiscal policies and actions required to tackle the key barriers to growth.
Speaking at the session which was attended by industry leaders across key sectors of the economy including oil, banking and telecoms, the Vice President said: “The Federal Government’s fiscal policy roadmap is addressing barriers to growth that will drive productivity, generate jobs and broaden wealth creating opportunities to achieve inclusive growth”.
He stated that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration was determined to convert Nigeria to a productive economy rather than one that was consumption driven.
To do so, the government, she said, would tackle the infrastructure deficit to unlock productivity, improve business competitiveness and create employment. She stated that Government would actively partner with the private sector to achieve this by use of a number of new funding platforms.
“These include the Road Trust Fund, which will develop potentially tollable roads, and the Family Homes Fund which is an ongoing PPP initiative for funding of affordable housing,” Osinbajo explained.
In addition, he detailed a revision to the tax provision that allows companies to receive tax relief for investment in roads on a collective basis. He explained that the existing provision that enabled companies to claim relief for road projects had only been taken advantage of by two companies, Lafarge and Dangote Cement. This, according to him, was because few companies were large enough to fund roads alone. “The revision would now allow collective tax relief such that companies will be able to jointly fund roads, subject to approval by FIRS and the Ministry of Works, and share the tax credit. This would be particularly attractive to firms in clusters such as industrial estates, many of which are plagued by poor road conditions,” he explained.
He emphasised the role of infrastructure in creating inclusive growth, explaining the current barriers to growth in agriculture, solid minerals and manufacturing.
The VP also outlined measures to deal with the problem of hidden liabilities, which were affecting the banking sector and efforts to revive the economy. He disclosed that the conversion from cash accounting to IPSAS (International Public Sector Accounting Standards) had unveiled unrecorded debts owed to contractors, oil marketers, exporters, electricity distribution companies and others.
“These liabilities were estimated at N2.2 Trillion and would be addressed with a 10 year Promissory Note Issuance programme in conjunction with the Central Bank of Nigeria. This measure would be subject to a rigorous audit process of all claims to ensure validity and mitigate against fraud and the impact of past corrupt practices.
“Henceforth, measures would be put in place to prevent recurrence of such a problem by ensuring that contracts are managed in a manner that firms have assurance over when they would be paid,” he said.
Osinbajo cited the fact that many contractors were owed as a reason that many of those recently paid by government were slow in remobilising to site: “Some contractors had not been paid in the past 4 years and in some cases the banks they were owing refused them access to the funds released, causing delays”.
He explained further that those receiving the Promissory Notes would be expected to provide a material discount to government. The issuance was a solution to a long term problem that was ‘a drag on economic activity’.
The 10-point agenda include recognising inherited debt profile after a robust audit process.
“This entails the issuance of debt certificates to contractors, Ministries, Departments & Agencies (MDAs), and State Governments; improving cash flow of businesses; improving banks’ Non-Performing Loans (NPLs),” he said.
Also listed as recovery plan was the mobilisation of private capital to complement government spending on infrastructure.