COVID-19: FG Scores Self High on Interventions

  • Says Nigeria facing new economic reality

By Ndubuisi Francis

The federal government has scored itself high in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic, declaring that since the outbreak of the scourge, its interventions have been proactive and people-centred.

But, it pointed out that Nigeria, like most countries in the world, was experiencing a new economic and social reality because of the COVID-19 crisis.
Like other primarily oil-dependent economies, the country, it noted, has been hit hard by the drop in crude oil prices and the COVID 19 pandemic.

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, who presented a keynote address in Abuja, Tuesday at a “National Dialogue on COVID-19 Economic Impact and Assessment of National and States Recovery Plan and Policy Options,” said the event provided a critical feedback as the government continues the implementation of post-Covid recovery plans and develop the next generation medium and long-term national development plans.

The event was organised by the finance ministry in collaboration with the Pro-poor Growth and Promotion of Employment in Nigeria (SEDIN), one of the programmes being implemented in Nigeria by the German Development Agency (GIZ).
According to her, the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis has been proactive and people-oriented, with an emphasis on human capital development and critical infrastructure.

She said: “The pandemic has required that we take a critical look at our health and economic policies, to swiftly introduce crisis management measures, catalyze support to the health sector, and accelerate certain key reforms while reimagining others entirely.
“Several fiscal measures were put in place to balance health and economic issues in addressing the burden of Covid-19 on Macro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), as part of the integrated policy framework which ensures coherence in fiscal, economy and health positions.”

Ahmed observed that key government interventions have included President Muhammadu Buhari’script swift establishment of a 12-member Presidential Task Force on COVID-19; the establishment of a N500 billion Covid-19 crisis intervention fund to finance the upgrade and improvement of healthcare facilities, and the creation of a Special Public Works Programme to employ 774,000 people.

The minister also alluded to “a robust healthcare and humanitarian response in terms of scaling up federal and sub-national interventions to address the acute health and livelihood impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
She cited the 2019 Finance Act which introduced various initiatives to boost agri-business with tax exemption for small businesses among others.

Others are amendments to the 2020 Budget, 2020 2022 MTEF/FSP, as well as the 2021 – 2023 MTEF/FSP, which involved accessing concessional borrowing windows to supplement the decline in oil and non-oil revenues, a debt the introduction of the N75 billion Nigeria Youth Investment Fund, with N25 billion earmarked in the 2021 Budget.

According to her, the Nigeria Economic Sustainability Plan (NESP) seeks to secure legislative approval in respect of passage of Fiscal Stimulus Act and other provisions to back the Economic Sustainability Plan being developed as responses to challenges posed by Covid-19, including support for MSMEs and creation of jobs.

Government, she stated, will continue to make critical investments in key sectors, including agriculture, infrastructure, health, and education.
“To do so, we must sustainably address the longstanding challenge of domestic revenue mobilisation, in part through continued implementation of the Strategic Revenue Generation Initiative (SRGI), and through continued incremental fiscal reforms via the introduction of annual Finance Bills, as well as reducing the cost of governance.

“We are also working collaboratively accros ministries, departments and agencies, and with the state and local governments to address financing for key cross-cutting issues,” Ahmed said.

In her remarks at the event, the representative of GIZ SEDIN, Ana Vinambres, noted that while COVID-19 is still very much around, it was important to look at additional ways to support MSMEs’ resilience, create new jobs and fast-track economic recovery.
He assured that SEDIN is committed to taking forward the recommendations of the dialogue, adding that it is open as well as ready for further support and collaboration with all relevant stakeholders.

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