COVID-19 Prompts BPE to Readjust Privatisation Timelines

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•Bureau to partner ministry in health sector reforms

Ndubuisi Francis in Abuja

The Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) is to readjust its timelines for the privatisation of some of the 19 government-owned companies slated for sale in 2020 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The agency had earlier slated 19 enterprises for privatisation with estimated proceeds in excess of N260 billion.

The privatisation proceeds are factored into the financing the 2020 budget.
Some of the listed transactions for the fiscal year are nine power assets, including the Yola Electricity Distribution Company; Afam Power Plant and the Nigeria Integrated Power Plants (NIPPs).

In an interview with THISDAY to mark his 60th birthday, which also coincided with Nigeria’s 60th independence anniversary, the BPE Director-General, Mr. Alex Okoh, stated that due to the disruptions engendered by the pandemic, it was unlikely for the agency to conclude transactions on all the entities slated for privatisation this year.

He said over 60 per cent of the target would be achieved while the timelines would be adjusted to conclude the rest in the first quarter of 2021.
He, however, expressed satisfaction that the two major transactions that are yielding over 50 per cent of the entire revenue projection for the year- the reprivatisation of the Afam Power Plant and Yola Distribution Company- are almost concluded.

Okoh said: “The health pandemic has not only disrupted the global economic environment but our specific local or national economy. When we made those projections, of course we did not envisage the disruption that would come from COVID-19. We projected to add to the fiscal purse this year about N260 billion. It is looking highly unlikely that the entire projection can be realised this fiscal year.

“But we are still pursuing the programme. It means that more of the financial proceeds and the revenue expectations may be coming in later as envisaged, perhaps by the end of the first quarter next year.
“Two of the transactions that should be contributing more than 50 per cent of the N260 billion we have almost concluded. In the few weeks, we should be able to conclude on these two transactions.
” So, I am hopeful that before the end of this particular fiscal year, we should be able to realise at least 60 per cent of our initial estimate or target.”

The BPE DG said the agency was in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Health to reform the healthcare sector to provide universal coverage for the entire populace, including the informal sector.
“That is going to be a major reform. You know we have carried out several sectoral. “We want to be able to provide universal health coverage and access to every citizen of this nation in such a way that they don’t have to bother about paying for the care. It will be based on single-payer system which means that the federal government, through a particular agency, will be responsible for paying for the health care of every citizen who needs it. So, access to medical and health treatment and intervention will no longer be dependent on whether you are rich or whether you are poor. We are going to more or less aggregate the services and aggregate the payment system of the person for that particular service,” he added.

According to him, what distinguishes the proposed system from the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) is that “the National Health Insurance Scheme, first and foremost depends on your subscribing to the health insurance,” adding that for those who are not formally engaged ( the informal sector) who constitute over 80 per cent of the population, there is no assurance of getting health care when they fall sick.

“It is different in that this coverage is for the entire population. The health insurance system itself as it is now, we are looking at how to accommodate it within that larger framework to provide funding for the single payer who will then be responsible for paying for the health insurance because for every health insurance scheme, if you are not paying for the premium, then you are not entitled to treatment,” he stated.

On his message for Nigerians on its diamond anniversary, he said although the country could have done better than what it has achieved presently, it is nevertheless better together as one united entity.
“It is good that we stay together as a nation. Certainly, we should have achieved a lot more than we have done, but it (the anniversary) gives us an opportunity to refocus,” he said.