Saturday, 9th December 2023

Private sector okays Tinubu’s reforms, seeks input in FG’s eight-point agenda

By Terhemba Daka, Anthony Otaru (Abuja) and Gloria Nwafor (Lagos)
30 August 2023   |   4:15 am
A day after rallying his ministers behind the task of rescuing the state from its downward slide, President Bola Tinubu yesterday received accolades from the private sector for his policy decisions on the nation’s economy since he assumed office three months ago.

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu (left) with Tony Elumelu during a courtesy visit to the President at the Presidential Villa in Abuja…yesterday.

• Elumelu: Private sector encouraged by President’s policies
• Adedeji: Tinubu’s reforms in right direction
• NECA: Economic agenda not achievable without private sector’s input
• SMEDAN: Only 2,083,200 out of 49.6m MSMEs have access to credit

A day after rallying his ministers behind the task of rescuing the state from its downward slide, President Bola Tinubu yesterday received accolades from the private sector for his policy decisions on the nation’s economy since he assumed office three months ago.

Chairman of Heirs Holdings and Transcorp Plc, Tony Elumelu, who delivered the private sector’s commendation, spoke to newsmen after a private meeting with President Tinubu at the State House, Abuja. He acknowledged that the president had made good decisions in the interest of the country, saying the private sector had been encouraged by the steps taken so far.
It was the first time the United Bank of Africa (UBA) founder would be visiting the President since he was sworn in. Speaking on the purpose of his visit, Elumelu said his discussion with Tinubu was private.
However, he declared that as a leader in the private sector, they are encouraged by the policies of the government. According to him, all things done by Tinubu so far had been in the interest of all Nigerians, especially women and the youths, adding that in the long run, Nigeria and Nigerians will benefit from it all, while imploring citizens to be patient with Mr President.
His words: “The private sector is encouraged with the bold decisions President Tinubu has taken and we hope that in the fullness of time, Nigerians will benefit from it because it’s all about the Nigerian people, it’s all about our youths, it’s all about making sure our women are involved and empowered. 
“It’s all about making sure our youths get jobs and I think Mr President has this at the back of his mind, and I believe, as a private sector person, that the actions and the decisions the president is taking now will help our people in the long run.”
Special Adviser to the President on Revenue, Zaccheus Adedeji, speaking on how the administration is working to manage Nigeria’s dependence on debt for public finance by raising the country’s revenue profile, among other ongoing reforms expected change the economic fortunes of Nigeria, said beyond the symbolic assessment of the first 100 days, the President’s actions so far is more about the medium to long term vision of how he wants to reposition the economy and make life better for Nigerians. 
“We are laying the foundation for a prosperous future. You will agree with me that even though the foundation is the most important structure of a building, it is not always the prettiest. We have done a lot that I am proud of within the short period. These include addressing some critical concerns of the private sector regarding pressing tax issues, removal of wasteful subsidies on petrol to create fiscal headroom and limit excessive borrowing, forex reforms to address market distortions, just to mention a few.”
On measures to address the pain of some of these policies, especially fuel subsidy removal, Adedeji said: “You will recall that Mr President signed some executive orders on July 6, which reversed the tax increases on manufacturers, and suspended the excise tax imposed on Single Use Plastics, which would have affected mostly SMEs and potentially trigger higher prices and further inflation. The Orders also deferred the commencement date of various changes introduced via the Fiscal Measures and Finance Act 2023 to give individuals and businesses reasonable time to adapt to the changes without major disruptions to their operations and livelihoods. The removal of wasteful subsidies on PMS and forex have stopped the haemorrhage on our treasury and will ensure that the government is on the path to sustainable financing with less dependence on CBN overdraft for public finance.  
“While some of these measures have unfortunately created short term pains for many people, we are confident that Nigerians will start to reap the benefits sooner rather than later. In addition to the various interventions by the federal and subnational governments, more initiatives are being worked on in consultation with key stakeholders which are expected to have positive and more fundamental impacts on the people.
“On diversifying Nigeria’s revenue sources and reducing dependency on a single sector for income generation, we believe that Nigeria is blessed if only we can improve our policy environment and enhance the efficiency of both the private and public sectors. This is one of the reasons why Mr. President recently approved the setting up of a Presidential Fiscal Policy and Tax Reforms Committee with eminent Nigerians from all spheres of the society to not only advise the government on the necessary reforms but also support the implementation. Ultimately the outcome of the committee’s work along with other policy actions of the government will result in productive diversification of the economy, government revenue sources and foreign exchange earnings.”

HOWEVER, the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) has said for the Federal Government to realise its eight-point agenda, private sector engagement would be required as about 60 per cent of the agenda will need the critical input of the private sector.
Director-General of NECA, Adewale-Smatt Oyerinde, who said this yesterday, stated that it would be of interest to the government to give due attention to the survival of the private sector for the eight-point agenda to become a reality.
Oyerinde said while the challenges that businesses currently face are multi-dimensional, it was imperative to apply a multi-dimensional approach to resolving them. He said the success factors for the agenda would be how well the government coordinates the activities of the ministries to complement each other, rather than the numerous contradictions witnessed in the past.
He said the level of engagement with critical stakeholders, including the Organised Private Sector (OPS) and the formulation of performance tracking metrics to assess the performance of each ministry, department and agency, was paramount.
According to him, while the agenda was succinct and addresses the core issues that the nation currently faces, “we urge that strong coordinated efforts should be put in place to avoid the agenda being caught up in inter-ministerial misalignments and narrow implementation as witnessed in past administrations.”

MEANWHILE, the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), has revealed that small-scale businesses in the country may continue to grapple for breath due to lack of credit facility. Director General of SMEDAN, Dr. Olawale Tunde Fasanya, who spoke to The Guardian on the issue, decried that only 2,083,222 out of 49.6 million existing Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMES) have access to credit facility for business expansion and sustainability.
The agency also described as unfortunate the fact that 44,640,200, representing 90 per cent of the number, are mere nano-businesses that are not often reckoned with in terms of credit disbursement. Fasanya, however, explained that in spite of their meager dispositions, nano-businesses sustain the economy. According to him, “it will surprise you to know that they are the ones sustaining the nation’s economy.
“They are the one-man businesses that we see around our households selling yams, tomatoes, akara, pepper and others.
“They sustain the economy because the economic shocks do not affect them. If you like, let the naira go as high as N1,000 to one dollar, they will only increase their prices and continue to be there, they won’t fold up.”
Fasanya also blamed lack of credit facility to small scale businesses on their attitude to pay back loans. “So, you won’t blame the banks as they also find it difficult to source their funds at some rates, which they won’t give to somebody who will not be able to pay back.
“The only development bank that is doing a bit good for the MSMEs is the Bank of Industry (BOI), the Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN) is also a wholesale bank, meaning they are just lending to other banks who will pay back loans with interest.”
SMEDAN boss stressed that the agency was already suggesting to the government, a credit guarantee scheme that can give assurance to banks to enable them to lend to MSMEs.