Some representatives of the organised private sector (OPS) have called for an improved collaboration between the federal government and the private sector in the new year.
They stressed the need for the consultation of the private sector ahead of policy formulation and implementation as well as active involvement in monitoring.
The OPS members said this in separate interviews with THISDAY.
The Director General, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Mr. Segun Ajayi-Kadri, noted the challenging times ahead, saying that from all indications the federal government appears to be aware of the issues and is amenable to tackling them.
“There are, however, policies that have been adopted that would negatively impact on the manufacturing sector in the year 2020. The increase in the VAT rate will certainly compound the challenge of high level of unplanned inventories of manufactured goods and dampen the impact of the worker’s minimum wage increase.
“We have a deficit financials that will transit 2019 to 2020, without any sign that it will vanish. This will put enormous pressure on government resources and reduce its capacity to deal with the infrastructure deficit bedeviling the economy.
“With a growth rate that may not go beyond two per cent and a double-digit inflation rate; an interest rate regime that may leave the rates of borrowing by an average manufacturer unchanged; deepening forex restrictions in the face of inadequate local supply of raw materials, the sector may not show any appreciable improvement from its current levels.
“In 2020, government would necessarily have to focus on mitigating the supply side constraints that has continued to limit our competitiveness. On this score, trade facilitation infrastructure comes first.
“There has to be a major boost in power supply, accelerated repair of roads, particularly in the industrial areas and an immediate amelioration of the hellish state of our Lagos Ports.
“Smuggling, though has lessened by the current border closure (which is certainly not a sustainable, palatable or permanent solution), remains an albatross and modern technology and reorientation of the relevant trade related agencies of government is needed to check this trade hemorrhage.
“As you are aware, we are entering the implementation stage of the AfCFTA in July 2020. It behoves government to ensure that the identified gaps in our economic ecosystem are expeditiously addressed.
“Quite importantly, our trade negotiating mechanism will have to be strengthened to ensure that the Nigerian economy is put in good stead to beneficially engage in the continental market.
“Government synergy with the key private sector operators should be deepened. “This is both in consultation ahead of policy formulation and implementation and active involvement in monitoring.
“It should re-focus and deliberately expand private sector participation in the provision of trade facilitation infrastructure and even public utilities.”
On his part, the Director General of Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Forum (NECA), Dr. Timothy Olawale, urged the government in 2020 to continue to focus on the implementation of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), which rests on the tripod of growth restoration, investment in people through various social investment programmes and building a globally competitive economy by focusing on critical infrastructure.
“The focus of the 2020 budget lays emphasis on completion of critical infrastructure and it is expected that the impact of this would be felt within the next four years.
“Of concern, however, is the continued increase in the debt profile of the nation and the huge percentage of the budget allocated for debt servicing,” he added.
He urged the federal government “to further engage the private sector in a collaborative manner and ensure that policies and programmes are geared towards supporting job creation, reducing the high level of treasury bill rates, improving access to credit for MSMEs, deepening intervention programme in the agricultural sector, building a robust payment system infrastructure that will help drive inclusion in addition to key macroeconomic concerns such as exchange rate stability, financial system stability and maintaining a strong external reserves.”
Reflecting on areas that government got it wrong in 2019, Olawale noted that “some of the policy thrust of government in 2019 tended to work against the interest of business and also contributed to the high unemployment rate in the country.
“Inconsistencies and contradictions in the monetary and fiscal policy thrust of government created confusion in the policy and shook investors’ confidence in the Nigerian economy.
“The pursuance of the Finance Bill, notwithstanding the concern expressed by stakeholders and the indefinite closure of the borders has driven up the cost of food items even though it has created an enlarged market for rice production.
“It was expected that Nigeria would focus of areas of comparative advantage.”
On his part, the Director General of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Mr. Muda Yusuf, stated that the key areas the government should focus on in 2020 in order to drive economic growth should include reforming the oil and gas sector to unlock its huge potential and reducing corruption and leakages in the sector.
He also said there was need to fix the problems at the nation’s ports by improving the infrastructure and providing better equipment.
He also stressed the need to put in place urgent measures to attract private capital into infrastructure financing to address its huge deficit.
He also said there was need for the government to “come up with practical strategies to promote economic inclusion in the Nigerian economy; promote the institution of true federalism.”
Also, the Director General of Nigeria Association of Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, Ambassador Ayo Olukanni, said government should focus on empowerment of the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and pay greater attention to “improvement of infrastructure such as energy, roads and rail. This is to enable effective tackling of the issues of unemployment which provides fertile grounds for insecurity.
“We should also ensure prompt implementation of the 2020 budget which was promptly passed. This is also key and important.”
In his own contribution, Associate Professor of Banking and Finance, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Dr. Jackson Ikeora, advised the government to focus on the SMEs, human capital development, security and effective control of the country’s population so that its growth rate would be below Nigeria’s GDP growth rate.
Ikeora said government should develop a long-term strategy of an economic future without crude oil and use the SMEs as the engine of the economy to implement the strategy in order to curb poverty.
“The government must embark on export industrialisation strategy like the model adopted by the Asian tigers that made their economies globally competitive.
“Export-oriented development strategy will reduce importation, save Nigeria from becoming a dumping ground for foreign manufactured goods, conserve and at the same time earn more foreign exchange.
“Government should take bold steps to ensure adequate security for citizens and investments. This will stop divestment of foreign firms from Nigeria and attract more foreign direct investments.
“Again, greater emphasis should be placed on human capital development, which is the driver of modern economy.
“A country’s abundant natural resources will amount to nothing without adequate human capital development. But regrettably, human development is virtually next to nothing in Nigeria’s priority,” Ikeora said.
Also, Professor of Finance, University of Lagos, Dr. Winifred Iyiegbuniwe, urged the government to focus on “a real fight against corruption to guarantee effective and efficient achievements of set goals and efficient implementation of the budget at minimum cost.
“Government should also establish special court to handle kidnapping and related security challenges, pursue infrastructure development with zeal and passion.”
He added that the government got it wrong on security and transportation in 2019 as Nigerians travelled with fear and stress during the period.