*Road Trust Fund coming too
By Adejoke Bamidele, Lagos
Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, has outlined a 10-point fiscal roadmap to reset the Nigerian economy to a path of growth and out of the crippling effects of the current recession which the ordinary citizens on the street are heavily groaning under.
The Minister, who represented Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, at the annual dinner of the Lagos Business School, itemised fiscal policies and actions being rolled out to tackle the key barriers to growth.
Speaking on Friday at the session which was attended by industry leaders across key sectors of the economy including oil, banking and telecoms, Adeosun said “The Federal Government’s Fiscal Roadmap is addressing barriers to growth that will drive productivity, generate jobs and broaden wealth creating opportunities to achieve inclusive growth”.
She stated that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration is determined to convert Nigeria to a productive economy rather than one that is consumption driven. To do so, government would tackle the infrastructure deficit to unlock productivity, improve business competitiveness and create employment. She stated that Government would actively partner with the private sector to achieve this by use of a number of new funding platforms. These include the Road Trust Fund, which will develop potentially tollable roads and the Family Homes Fund which is an ongoing PPP initiative for funding of affordable housing.
In addition she detailed a revision to the Tax provision that allows companies to receive tax relief for investment in roads on a collective basis. She explained that the existing provision that enabled companies to claim relief for road projects had only been taken advantage of by two companies, Lafarge and Dangote Cement. This was because few companies were large enough to fund roads alone. The revision would now allow collective tax relief such that companies will be able to jointly fund roads, subject to approval by FIRS and the Ministry of Works, and share the tax credit. This would be particularly attractive to firms in clusters such as industrial estates, many of which are plagued by poor road conditions.
She emphasised the role of infrastructure in creating inclusive growth, explaining the current barriers to growth in agriculture, solid minerals and manufacturing. She stated that the drivers of inflation were structural and were being addressed through the focus on power, rail and road infrastructure.
The Minister also outlined measures planned to deal with the problem of hidden liabilities, which were affecting the banking sector and efforts to revive the economy. The Minister explained that the conversion from cash accounting to IPSAS (International Public Sector Accounting Standards) had unveiled unrecorded debts owed to contractors, oil marketers, exporters, electricity distribution companies and others. These liabilities were estimated at N2.2 Trillion and would be addressed with a 10 year Promissory Note Issuance programme in conjunction with the Central Bank of Nigeria.
This measure would be subject to a rigorous audit process of all claims to ensure validity and mitigate against fraud and the impact of past corrupt practices. Henceforth, the Minister said that measures would be put in place to prevent recurrence of such a problem by ensuring that contracts are managed in a manner that firms have assurance over when they would be paid.
She cited the fact that many contractors were owed as a reason that many of those recently paid by Government were slow in remobilising to site: “Some contractors had not been paid in the past 4 years and in some cases the banks they were owing refused them access to the funds released, causing delays”. She explained further that those receiving the Promissory Notes would be expected to provide a material discount to government. The issuance was a solution to a long term problem that was ‘a drag on economic activity’.
Adeosun concluded her remarks by assuring that, despite the current economic challenges facing the Nigerian economy, the outlook is positive due to the strong fundamentals of Nigeria and the ongoing reform programme. She reiterated that Government is determined to create an enabling environment and put in place supportive policies to return to growth in 2017 including greater alignment of monetary and fiscal policies.