MON, AUG 10 2020-theG&BJournal– ‘’Nigerian economy has some strong fundamentals. Our natural resources endowments are vast, the domestic market is large, and our people are resourceful and enterprising. What is missing are the enablers. Times like these offer tremendous opportunities for innovation, creativity, export growth and import substitution. These are the silver linings in the current economic downturn,’’ says Mrs Toki Mabogunje, President Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI).
Mabogunje was addressing Federal Government officials and stakeholders over the weekend during the Chamber’s virtual Presidential Policy Dialogue session where she made a strong case for regular engagements and communication on policy issues with the Federal Government ‘’to ensure quality feedback and enrich the policy making process.’’
The dialogue she said, should cover macroeconomic policies, sectoral policies. ‘’These will include foreign exchange policy, Trade policy, Tax policy, Energy policy, transport policy, Industrial policy, Agricultural policy, ICT policy, among others. Some of these are cross cutting, while others are sector specific. Regular engagement with relevant stakeholders in the various sectors will bring a great deal of value to the economic management process,’’ she said. ‘’The regulatory environment also needs to align with this vision.’’
Mabogunje also tabled some issues which she suggests the LCCI wants to see decision on quickly which includes the slow pace of reforms in the oil and gas sector.
‘’Especially the fact that the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) could not make it through the eighth National Assembly is a cause for worry. And the part that was passed was not signed by the President. This has affected the growth of the sector,’’ she noted.
The failure of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) to adhere to the Executive Order which forbid customs checkpoints around the ports and within given geographical delimitations in the country is also a cause for concern.
Closure of the land borders has enormous implications for cross border economic activities around the country. The indications are now that the closure is indefinite.
‘’While we share the concern of government on issues of security and smuggling, we believe that the indefinite closure of land borders is not the solution to the problem.’’
She said the Chamber is excited about the signing of the AFCTA. ‘’But we need to get ourselves ready for the pressure of competition inherent in the continental economic integration agenda.’’
According to her, ‘’a number of commitments were made about the creation of an environment that would enable the private sector to be competition ready. But not much has happened in this regard so far.’’
We are aware of the efforts of government to fix our infrastructures, including roads and railways, but funding has remained a major challenge. We would like to see a new funding model with much bigger focus on private sector capital within a Public Private Partnership [PPP] framework for infrastructure development in the country.
‘’At a time like this, we should do all that we can to attract private capital, both from the domestic economy and the global investing community. We are aware that there are huge financing gaps, especially in the infrastructure delivery. Challenges of funding the economy and the operations of government are a major cause for concern.’’
Investment climate issues and cost of doing business are very critical issues that need to be tackled as the ease of doing business remains a major challenge. The key cost drivers are the high energy cost, depreciating exchange rate, high cost of fund, high transportation cost, high transaction cost at the ports, among others.
‘’There is a limit to which these costs can be passed on to the consumers, especially in an environment of weak and declining purchasing power,’’ Mabogunje said.