Though the Federal Government has commenced the implementation of the N2.3 trillion stimulus package, the economic distortions and hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic require the relevant ministers and stakeholders to expedite action on the plan adopted to mitigate the effect of the crisis on the economy, according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.
Emphasizing the need for a quick implementation of the plan, the Vice President said “everything that we are doing has to be done immediately.”
Continuing, he said “we are already in ‘Day 67’ since the plan. Nothing is going to happen by magic, we have to simply do this stuff. We got to ensure that we have the money and ensure that day by day, we are measuring our achievements and trying to ensure that we do the things that we need to do. And we simply are not favoured by time, every single day the poverty situation and the economic distortions deepen.”
In a presentation which ended with the headline “The Urgency of Now,” the Vice President stated this on Monday while presenting an overview of the Economic Sustainability Plan at the First Year Ministerial Performance Review Retreat organized for Ministers, Permanent Secretaries and top government functionaries. Prof. Osinbajo made his own presentation after delivering the President’s opening speech. The 2-day retreat ends today.
According to Prof. Osinbajo, “… everybody recognizes that the only way out of this particular problem is to ensure that we fund production, enable consumer spending so that people can go and buy things, and we have to put money in people’s hands.”
For instance, the Vice President noted that “the Mass Agriculture programme is one where we envisaged that we will be engaging many farmers. So far, we have enumerated at least 4 million farmers. So, these are farmers who are tied to their lands and we have the geo-statistics that shows where their land is and we have about 4 million of them. And we expect that with each state contributing acreage for farming, we will be able to do significant numbers. The plan is designed in such a way that in each one of the programmes, we are engaging as many Nigerians as possible.
“The expected outcome for Agriculture, even if each farmer employs an additional person, this will result in an additional 4 million jobs and even more jobs along the value chain. We also will be looking at developing rural roads to reduce post-harvest losses.
“Then guaranteed off-take of the produce. The way the programme is designed is that we have anchor farmers who are big farmers. They engage several thousands of farmers and they ensure that these farmers have all of their requirements and they guarantee the offtake of their produce. We have done the survey and it is very evident that so long as there is funding, we will be able to do this programme.”
For the Mass Housing Programme, the Vice President said “…the programme is one where we are looking at building 300,000 homes across the country. We are looking at ensuring that the price of those homes do not exceed N2 million. We already have models which have been put up in Borno State by the Family Homes Fund where the figure is at about N2 million. This is the social housing scheme.”
Continuing, he said “there are two tracks to the housing programme. There is one which is ongoing by the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, and the one under the Family Homes Fund is also supervised by the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing.
“The strategy is one that ensures that we use local materials as much as possible on each site. So, on each site, block making is going on. The making of doors, windows, tiles are going on. The whole idea is to make sure that we patronize the local industry and engage many of the young men and women who are at the moment out of work.
“One of the critical success indicators for us will be the number of young engineers, builders who are engaged in these projects. So, we are opening up the space for them and ensuring that they are able to bid for the jobs so that the jobs are not given to big contractors who will take it all up. There will be some big contractors who are supervising smaller businesses and builders.”
He added “we are looking at funding from the structured loans of the CBN and the expected funding is about N217 billion. We look at the demand, 1.5 million doors, 1.8 million windows, 7.8 million hinges, for 300, 000 homes. This is huge by any standards and if we are able to focus on the local industry, we can actually start a major revolution in building in our own country and patronize local industry and ensure that our people get the jobs and the experience that they require.”
For the MSMEs and Solar Power components of the plan, the Vice President said “the solar power and MSMEs strategy are also focused on creating jobs.”
For the Solar Home System, Prof. Osinbajo said “the Solar Power strategy is also focused on creating jobs. What has happened for Solar Power energy in our country is that, for those who have been following, in the past few years, we have been able to demonstrate that if we enable the private sector to install solar power in homes and businesses, government itself does not have to worry about any of these things, unlike what is happening today, where whatever happens in the power sector almost invariably becomes the problem of government.”
“If you look at the projects that we have done in Ariaria Market for example, or Sabon Gari in Kano, where these solar systems have been installed in shops, and in other establishments, there have been no default in payments. The private sector people who put these systems there, receive their pay constantly. In Sokoto also where the project has been implemented, people are happy to pay. Jobs are created, the installers, those who are servicing the system, those who are running the payment systems, these are jobs for so many Nigerians.
“So, using that same strategy, we will be enabling about 5 million solar home systems to be installed across the country. What government will do is to provide the loans through the CBN supported structured loans to the manufacturers of these solar home systems, and many of them are assembled locally. We are already working with these providers of the facilities. One other point is that the World Bank is working closely with us, and supporting the scheme so that once we are able to get fully out there, if we are able to do all of the 5 million homes, we should be able to provide 250,000 new jobs in low and high skilled categories, 25 million individuals with new or improved access to electricity. We are looking at 5 individuals per home,” the Vice President added.
The MSMEs sector, the Vice President said, is one important area of supporting job creation and productivity in the economy.
He said “We have the MSMEs support which has many aspects. But the Survival Fund which the President spoke about in his speech, is the Payroll Support and the Guaranteed Offtake, and then registration of new businesses. Guaranteed Offtake of products will support continued production of priority items and benefit 100,000 SMEs and sustain 300,000 jobs.
“I think that the MSMEs support and the support for businesses is particularly important because we are looking for payroll support for MSMEs which will include payment to teachers of private schools, private businesses for a period of 3 months, just to ensure that people do not lose their jobs. We also expect that the MSMEs support will be one that will enable industries like the hospitality industry, especially the lower cadre to benefit.”
Highlighting specific funding requirements and the expected outcomes in the plan, the Vice President said “Agriculture requiring N637.2 billion funding will provide 5,000,000 jobs; the Solar power project funding requirement is N152.4 billion is expected to provide 250,000 jobs; the Mass Housing programme with a funding requirement of N217.3 billion is expected to create 1,500,000 jobs; while Public Works funding is N52 billion to provide 774,000 jobs: and N100 billion is required to provide 500, 000 jobs in the SMEs.”
Speaking further about the importance of implementing a stimulus plan, the Vice President said there was no other way of correcting the distortions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said, “I think that if we are able to implement this faithfully, if we are able to ensure that we bring in the resources, then we certainly will be able to turn around, the economic fortunes of Nigeria.
“The truth is that, if you look at stimulus packages all over the world, what has happened is that, in many economies that have been able to lessen the impact of COVID-19, the funds have been provided and they have been provided at great pains.