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How Nigeria plans to get economy back on track after the pandemic

The federal government has rolled out a plan to get the economy back on track after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic affected the price of oil, the mainstay of Nigeria’s revenue. This led to the reworking of the 2020 budget by the executive arm of government to reflect the current economic realities.

The revised budget of N10.810 trillion was passed by the National Assembly last week.

Also, President Muhammadu Buhari set up the economic sustainability committee chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to find ways to get the economy back on track following the economic havoc wreaked by COVID-19.

In its report, the economic sustainability committee rolled out a number of solutions across the different sectors of the economy.

The plan is based on “real sector measures”, “fiscal and monetary measures” and “implementation.”

The committee suggests that five million jobs be created from the agricultural sector owing to the “we must produce what we eat” belief of the president.

It said state governments are to contribute between 20,000 to 100,000 hectares of land to make the project feasible over a period of 12 months.

“The intention is for the project to create 5 million jobs by focusing on increasing land under cultivation with state governments contributing between 20,000 to 100,000 hectares from a combination of aggregated smallholder farms and utilization of abandoned states farm settlements and agricultural projects,” the report said.

“The project will span the entire agricultural value chain, from ‘farm to table’ as it were. It will support smallholder farmers directly or through outgrower schemes with services and inputs including land-clearing, ploughing, provision of seeds, saplings, fertilisers, pesticides as well as extension services, storage to mitigate post-harvest losses and equipment.

“Farmers will also be linked to low-interest input financing.”

The committee said 1.8 million jobs will be created from a mass housing scheme. A total number of 300,000 homes are to be built within 12 months.

“The first track is aimed at easing bottlenecks in the delivery of so­cial housing while the second track will deliver affordable homes through direct government interventions in house construction,” the report read.

The Osinbajo led-committee said the pandemic has shown the need for a robust health sector.

“National efforts in this regard are hinged on four key priorities, namely, boosting the response to the COV­ID-19 pandemic, ensuring access of every Nigerian to qualita­tive health services based on the prioritisation of primary health care, building preparedness for the threat posed by infectious diseases and boosting local research and development efforts aimed at the production of medical and pharmaceutical resourc­es,” it said.

The committee proposed the implementation of the reforms in the Finance Act of 2020, maintaining the increase in the VAT rate to 7.5 per cent.

“Develop business continuity plans for tax and customs administration to provide services to citizens, taxpayers, and importers in case of widespread contagion (or mobility restrictions),” it read.

“Rationalise ineffective tax incentives and exemptions.”

The committee also proposed that all government expenditure should be “streamlined” to eliminate non-essential items.

“Provide N1trillion in loans to boost local manufacturing and production across the critical sector. Unify exchange rates to maximize naira returns to FAAC from foreign exchange inflows,” the report read

“Manage the exchange rate in a sustainable manner. Invoke partial risk guarantees for SMEs.”

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