By Tony Obiechina, Abuja
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Monday disclosed that the Federal Government has set aside N15 trillion for the designing and putting in place the National Economic Infrastructural Development Fund (Infraco).
Speaking while declaring open the 25th Nigerian Economic Summit in Abuja on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari, the Vice President said the Federal Government is working actively with the Central Bank, Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority and State Governments under the auspices of the National Economic Council to design the Fund.
According to him, the Fund which will be independently managed, “will help to close the national infrastructural gap and provide a firm basis for increasing national economic productivity and growth”.
Speaking on the the country’s recent economic recession, Osinbajo noted the recession happened after twelve successive quarters of positive growth following the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We must bear in mind that this decline was after 12 successive quarters of positive growth and came about as a result of the severity of the global downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic including lockdowns, disruption in global supply chains, business failures and rising unemployment.
“We can all recall of course that during the lock-down, farming did not take place, businesses were closed, schools were closed as were hotels and restaurants. Also, airlines stopped flying while inter-state commerce was disrupted.
“The economy only began to recover when these activities resumed and if we are able to sustain the nearly three percentage point increase from the second quarter decline of —6.1% the performance in the 4th quarter could take us into positive territory.
“It was to mitigate this impact that the Federal Government introduced the Economic Sustainability Plan. All the programmes in the ESP are reliant on the private sector playing a key role in creating and conserving jobs and the production and delivery of services in agriculture, housing, solar power, and digital technologies to mention just a few of the sectors.
” To take the example of agriculture, with the support of the banking sector, the Federal Government is working to organise finance for farmers and we are also guaranteeing uptake of produce. On its part, the private sector is responsible for the desired local production, provision of services and associated logistics across the agricultural value chain.
“We expect that the larger companies and firms operating in all sectors of the economy will also build on this spirit of partnership by supporting small businesses especially by including them in value chains as suppliers, distributors, contract manufacturers, and service providers amongst other things.
The Vice President said to ameliorate effect of the pandemic, the Federal Government has provided COVID-19 payroll support to over 16,000 businesses with 101,000 of their employees getting between N30,000 to N50,000 over a three month period in the initial phase.
He also disclosed that up to 500,000 employees will be covered in addition to the support being extended to artisans and road transport workers.
“In addition to the positive interventions in the ESP, the Federal Government is also sending the 2020 Finance Bill to further boost economic activity. Some of its provisions include:
“Reduction in duties on tractors, motor vehicles for the transportation of goods and persons. Exemption of small companies from payment of education tax under the Tertiary Education Trust fund (TETFUND)-companies with less than N25m turnover are eligible.
“A 50 per cent reduction in minimum tax; from 0.5 per cent to 0.25 per cent for gross turnover for financial years ending between January 1st, 2020 and December 31st, 2021. Granting of tax relief to companies that donated to the COVID-19 relief fund under the private sector coalition (CACOVID)”, he added.
In his welcome address, the Chairman of the NESG, Isue Ighodalo, said the circumstances of the times especially the pandemic and its far reaching health and economic consequences; the restiveness of our huge youth population; a population growth rate that exceeds our rate of economic growth and development; the high rates of unemployment and underemployment and the resultant high levels of poverty in our economy dictated that this year’s must be a Summit with a difference and not business as usual.
He said, “the recommendations from this Summit and similar economic interventions should be carefully considered by our Federal and State governments as critical inputs into policies that must be crafted and tailored towards implementing national prescriptions that will result in real, sustainable and inclusive double digit economic growth over the next two decades”.
He commended President Muhammadu Buhari, the Vice President; Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed and the Minister of State, Prince Clem Agba for their consistent support to the annual Summit since 2015.